Obama Administration Spent $467,175 on Travel Expenses in Failed Bid to Bring Olympics to Chicago

January 10, 2012 - 5:19 PM

Michelle and Barack Obama

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

(CNSNews.com) – The Obama administration spent more than $467,000 on travel expenses when it sent Michelle Obama, President Barack Obama, and other administration officials to Copenhagen into 2009 to lobbying the International Olympic Committee to award the 2016 Olympics to Chicago.

The administration officials traveled to Copenhagen over the period of Sept. 21 to Oct. 3, 2009--with Obama himself making a brief trip there at the end of that period.

“Expenses for the two-week trip appear to have far exceeded $467,175 in light of the fact that costs associated with the aircrafts-two Boeing 747s and several Air Force cargo planes--have not been made available,” stated Judicial Watch (JW) in a press release today about the Department of Defense expense records it obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

The DOD provides support, including aircraft, for travel by the president, the first lady, and some senior administration officials.

Despite making personal pleas on behalf of Chicago in Copenhagen, President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, celebrity Oprah Winfrey, and numerous administration officials failed to persuade members of the International Olympics Committee (IOC) to select the city as the site for the 2016 Olympics.

Among the estimated $467,175 in U.S. taxpayer funds that were spent on the effort, a little over half--$235,659--was devoted to paying for hotels and “transportation and communications” costs, according to JW’s data.

That does not include the $33,044 spent on an “extra day in hotel” (Oct. 3, 2009), a figure that indicates the daily lodging costs. The second largest expense was $129,276 (about 28 percent) for “travel vouchers for hotel, mileage, reimbursed expenses, and flight costs for persons attending.” What remained--$69,196--was spent on flying journalists to Copenhagen.

Michelle Obama, Denmark, 2016 Olympics

First Lady Michelle Obama arrives in Copenhagen, Denmark, on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2009 to lobby for Chicago as host city for the 2016 Summer Olympics. (AP Photo/Claus Bjoern Larsen, Polfoto)

In addition to the president and first lady, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, presidential Senior Advisor and Assistant Valarie Jarrett, and representatives of the White House Office of Olympics, Paralympics, and Youth Sport were among those who made the trip and whose names were not redacted in the documents provided by the DOD. Judicial Watch noted out that Obama flew “dozens of other participants” to Copenhagen, but their names were redacted in the DOD-kept records obtained by JW.

Obama named Jarrett the “Olympics Czar,” charged with leading the bid for bringing the Olympics to Chicago.

“Jarrett’s work on the Olympics bid would have violated Obama’s own Executive Order against engaging in lobbying activities prior to his administration,” stated Judicial Watch. “However, then-‘Ethics Czar’ Norm Eisen granted Jarrett an ‘ethics waver’ from the president’s highly-touted ethics pledge so Jarrett could run the push for the Chicago Olympics bid. The waiver exempted Jarrett from the restrictions of President Obama’s own ethics pledge, even though she had personally led the bid before entering the White House.”

Judicial Watch filed its FOIA request to the DOD on Oct. 5, 2009. Notwithstanding the FOIA statue requiring federal entities to respond within 20 days, it took the DOD “26 months” to comply with JW’s request for expense records.

Judicial Watch also filed “an open records request,” the state-level version of a FOIA demand, with Chicago Mayor Daley in an effort to acquire records associated with the Olympics bid. However, Daley’s office did not respond. Following that, the watchdog filed a lawsuit against Daley’s administration in November 2009 to obtain those records.