Report: High taxpayer tab for first lady’s Spain trip

First lady Michelle Obama’s much-criticized trip to Spain in 2010 cost taxpayers at least $467,000, a government-watchdog group said Thursday after obtaining Secret Service and Air Force documents.

The excursion, in which Mrs. Obama and daughter Sasha stayed at the five-star Villa Padierna on Spain’s Mediterranean coast, cost $199,323 for flying time of the government’s 757 plane, which normally serves as Air Force Two, according to the right-leaning group Judicial Watch.

Lodging for the 15-member flight crew at a nearby motel cost an additional $10,000.

Secret Service records show that the agency’s costs were $254,461. That total included $26,670 for a chauffeured tour of Costa del Sol and $50,078 for a travel-planning company, of which liberal billionaire George Soros is a 50 percent owner.

“The American people can ill-afford to keep sending the first family on vacations around the globe,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “It is hypocritical for President Obama to fire GSA officials for wasteful conference spending, while his family went on a luxury vacation in the Costa del Sol, Spain, that cost taxpayers nearly half a million dollars.”

White House press secretary Jay Carney said Thursday he had no comment on the cost of the first lady’s trip.

The accounting comes a day after the Republican National Committee filed a complaint with the Government Accountability Office asking for an investigation of President Obama’s alleged misuse of taxpayer dollars for campaign travel.

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus cited, among other trips, Mr. Obama’s visits this week to North Carolina, Colorado and Iowa to promote legislation that would prevent interest rates on federal student loans from rising.

“President Obama traveled to three states largely considered to be electoral battlegrounds to promote this legislation,” Mr. Priebus said. “One might imagine that if this were genuinely a government event, he might have stopped in a non-battleground state like Texas or Vermont.”

House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, demanded Thursday the Obama campaign reimburse the Treasury for the costs of this week’s presidential trips, which the speaker called “pathetic.”

“The president traveled across the country on the taxpayers’ dime … insisting that Congress fix a problem that we were already working on. Frankly, I believe this is beneath the dignity of the White House,” Mr. Boehner said.

Mr. Carney said the fact that House Republicans came forward Wednesday with a bill on the student-loan issue proved that Mr. Obama’s trip, which was intended to pressure Republicans, was an effective policy tactic. He reiterated his contention that the White House follows “by the book” the rules pertaining to reimbursing the government for campaign travel.

The president’s spokesman also pointed out that Mr. Obama will travel Friday to Georgia, a state he is given little chance of winning in November, for an event devoted to military families.

Mrs. Obama’s trip to Spain created a storm of criticism at the time, with the first lady being likened to a modern-day Marie Antoinette as the U.S. was in the grips of a severe recession. The White House said the Obamas paid their own way, but the security costs of the trip weren’t disclosed back then.

The Air Force refused to reveal to Judicial Watch the number of civilian passengers who accompanied Mrs. Obama on the five-day trip, citing an exemption to the Freedom of Information Act. It was previously reported that Mrs. Obama brought along two friends, four of their children and several aides.

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