Watchdog group tallies cost of first lady’s Aspen trip | AspenTimes.com

Watchdog group tallies cost of first lady’s Aspen trip

Staff report
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

AP fileFirst lady Michelle Obama's trip to Aspen with her daughters last February cost taxpayers $83,182.99, a watchdog group reported Friday. Here, she's seen in Washington, D.C.

ASPEN – The Aspen ski vacation that first lady Michelle Obama and her two daughters took in February cost taxpayers $83,182.99, a government watchdog group announced Friday.

Judicial Watch, a Washington, D.C.-based public-interest group that says its mission is to investigate and fight government corruption, obtained records from the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Secret Service detailing the Obamas’ President’s Day weekend trip. The organization said it garnered the records after filing a lawsuit on May 31 against both government agencies.

The bill for the U.S. Secret Service, including accommodations at the Fasching Haus deluxe condominiums on South Galena Street and the Inn at Aspen on Highway 82, was $48,950.38, according to the watchdog group.

The cost for the flight, per official Department of Defense published hourly rates, was $22,583.70. Food and miscellaneous on-flight items cost $235.44. The cost for rental cars totaled $6,442.23, Judicial Watch said.

“No wonder we had to file a lawsuit in federal court and wait six months to get basic information on Michelle Obama’s luxury Aspen vacation,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a prepared statement. “The costs of the Obama family ski weekend are staggering. These high-priced luxury vacations, and the lack of transparency about them, are beginning to seem like an abuse of office.”

Key details, including flight records for the Secret Service detail and the names of individuals who accompanied Obama on the vacation, were removed from the documents – with the exception of two staffers. One was Meredith Koop, her personal assistant and style adviser. The other was the first lady’s scheduler, Kristen Jarvis, the watchdog group said.

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FoxNews.com noted that the trip was the 16th vacation in three years taken by the Obama family. Judicial Watch first asked for the Aspen travel documents on Feb. 21. Obama and her daughters arrived in Aspen on Feb. 17 and reportedly stayed at the home of Jim and Paula Crown, owners of Aspen Skiing Co.

During a more high-profile trip in July 2011, Obama visited Aspen to raise campaign funds for her husband’s presidential re-election bid and the Democratic National Committee.

People who contributed at least $1,000 got to attend a luncheon and listen to her speech at the home of the Crowns. Those who donated $10,000 per couple got to attend an exclusive lunch and picture opportunity with her. About 150 people attended that event.