Judicial Watch Sues Secret Service, Defense Department for Records Detailing Use of Government Funds for President’s, First Lady’s Lavish Trips throughout 2013
Costly Michelle Obama outings to Ireland and England; vacations to Hawaii and Martha’s Vineyard; among trips being questioned in FOIA lawsuit
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and fights government corruption, announced today that on January 13, 2014, it filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits against the U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Department of Defense to obtain records detailing the amount of government funds spent on seven separate lavish trips taken by Barack Obama and the Obama family throughout 2013 (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Secret Service (No. 1:14-cv-00046)), (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Defense(No. 1:14 – cv- 00047)).
The Secret Service FOIA lawsuit, pursuant to a series of FOIA requests from June to August 2013, seeks information from the Secret Service about “the use of U.S. Government funds to provide security and other services” to:
- “First Lady Michelle Obama, Malia Obama, Sasha Obama, and any companions on a June 2013 trip to Ireland.”
- “President Barack Obama and any companions on a June – July 2013 trip to Africa.”
- “First Lady Michelle Obama and any companions on a Summer 2012 trip to London, England for the Olympics.”
- “President Barack Obama and any companions on a December 2012 trip to Honolulu, Hawaii.”
- “President Barack Obama and any companions on an August 2013 trip to California.”
- “President Barack Obama and any companions on an August 2013 trip to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.”
The Secret Service failed to substantively respond to these FOIA requests, and has effectively shut down Judicial Watch’s inquiries about First Family travel.
On January 13, Judicial Watch filed a separate FOIA lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Defense seeking further “records concerning First Lady Michelle Obama’s June 2013 trip to Ireland.”
The current FOIA lawsuits are part of a continuing effort by Judicial Watch to obtain information about taxpayer funding of lavish vacations for the president and his family.
“The Obama administration is in cover-up mode on the costs of the Obamas’ travel. The Secret Service has, in contemptuous violation of law, simply stopped answering our Freedom of Information inquiries,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “It seems that our ‘king’ does not want taxpayers to know how much he’s spending on his unnecessary travel.”
As if the Obama administration didn’t have enough crises to deal with, it’s dedicating the resources of a federal agency to issue official regulations to ban potato chips, candy and soda from schools throughout the nation.
It’s an area that many Americans might agree doesn’t require government meddling but never the less the Obama administration is getting involved anyways. Under Michelle Obama’s $4.5 billion law to conquer childhood obesity in low-income neighborhoods, school lunches have already been overhauled by the government to include healthy and nutritious foods, especially in the inner city.
Now the agency charged with revolutionizing kids’ diets, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), wants to take it a huge step further by essentially banning schools from selling “junk food” such as potato chips and candy as well as soda. That’s right; bureaucrats at a federal government agency combined their creative juices to actually come up with a plan to eliminate chips and candy on campus.
Like most government agencies, the USDA doesn’t offer a condensed version of the rules but rather a torturous 160-page proposal. Here are the highlights; the agency wants schools to replace unhealthy snacks with those that are lower in fat, sugar and sodium. That means snacks with whole grains, low-fat dairy, fruits, vegetables and protein. The agency is thoughtful enough to consider allowing variation by age group for factors such as beverage portion size and caffeine content.
Here is another considerate move by the USDA, which is responsible for developing and executing policy on farming, agriculture, forestry, and food; it will make exemptions for “treats” during special occasions such as birthday parties, holidays and other celebrations. The agency will also allow schools to continue traditions like “occasional fundraisers and bake sales.” Wow, that’s a relief!
The USDA explains in its new regulations why it’s getting so involved in children’s diets. “The link between poor diet and health problems (such as childhood obesity) is a matter of particular policy concern because the relevant health problems produce significant social costs; imposing nutrition standards on competitive foods is one way to ensure that children are provided with healthy food options throughout the school day,” the USDA writes.
This is all part of a much broader initiative to revolutionize the inner city diet by providing fresh produce and grilled lean meats as alternatives to greasy, fried foods that tend to be more popular in the so-called “food deserts.” It’s been the First Lady’s mission since moving into the White House and she worked hard to get Congress to pass the $4.5 billion measure that will help fund it.
Michelle Obama even got her husband to appoint the family’s Chicago chef, Sam Kass, as “Senior Policy Adviser for Healthy Food Initiatives.” The idea is to eliminate childhood obesity within a generation, especially in the nation’s inner cities. The First Lady claims that childhood obesity is a threat to national security and a crisis equivalent to AIDS and youth violence.
The Obama Administration keeps funding questionable programs to combat obesity by bringing fresh produce to poor areas, even as health experts concede the efforts are wasted—right along with hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars.
Consider this south Florida newspaper article focusing on how local nonprofits are spending federal money to bring fresh produce to poor areas to combat obesity. One county alone, Miami-Dade, got nearly $15 million from the feds and a chunk of it was used to bring fresh produce to areas considered “food deserts,” or low-income neighborhoods that lack markets with fresh produce found in more affluent areas.
The allocation is part of a $370 million stimulus-funded program to fight obesity in low-income neighborhoods. It’s also part of a much larger initiative, Michelle Obama’s outrageous $4.5 billion law to revolutionize the inner-city diet by providing fresh produce and grilled lean meats as alternatives to greasy, fried foods that tend to be more popular in low-income neighborhoods. As part of this effort the U.S. government spent $830 million to study obesity in 2011 and justify the creation of restrictive policies to control what Americans eat.
But the focus of the administration’s costly anti-obesity campaign has remained to tackle the “epidemic” in low-income neighborhoods by claiming that the poor are more likely to be obese because they have no access to healthy foods. This theory is wrong, according to experts quoted in the Florida newspaper article. “The idea of food deserts has nothing to do with obesity,” according to one researcher who authored a study that’s backed up by a series of others.
The study involved 13,000 children and found no correlation between kids’ obesity and access to fresh produce. In fact, the best predictor was the parents’ weight. This brings to mind that old cliché about the fruit not falling far from the tree. “You’re just not going to change behavior by offering more vegetables,” the expert, a highly regarded researcher, assures.
A separate study, published in 2011 in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found the same thing. It followed more than 5,000 people over 15 years and determined that greater supermarket availability had no correlation with how frequently people ate fruits and vegetables. This hasn’t stopped local officials from citing bogus statistics to obtain federal funds to combat “food deserts.” A top health official in Miami-Dade County wrote in a report that “research shows that better access to affordable, nutritious food is associated with healthier eating habits.”
Of interesting note is that the area featured in the news story isn’t even considered a food desert because it has a large, recently remodeled grocery store with a big produce department. The store, part of a major national chain, is located just 13 blocks from the taxpayer-funded farmer’s market in a crime-infested area of mostly black residents known as Liberty City.
With the First Lady as self-appointed czar, the Obama Administration is on a mission to eradicate obesity and has dedicated hundreds of millions of dollars to study the phenomena and justify the creation of restrictive policies to control what Americans eat.
It’s almost as bad as global warming. Just this week, at a conference in the nation’s capital, an army of public health officials warned that the U.S. will suffer an obesity crisis if Uncle Sam doesn’t intervene. Nearly half of the adult population will be obese by 2030, they revealed at the government-sponsored powwow (Weight of the Nation) which was clearly a forum to push the administration’s agenda.
A variety of health experts made a case for public policy initiatives—coincidentally, ones pushed by Michelle Obama—as a way to slow the rate of obesity. Specifically, those aimed at preventing childhood obesity. This happens to be the First Lady’s baby. Remember, how she got Congress to pass a $4.5 billion law to conquer childhood obesity? The measure was a must, according to Obama, because it’s the government’s duty to protect poor and ethnic minority communities that are overwhelmingly obese compared to their wealthier, white counterparts.
To avoid weight gain or even try to reverse it, the government would have to go beyond banning soda and sugary foods from school or bringing healthy cuisine to the inner city, experts disclosed at the conference. Junk food would actually have to be taxed to discourage its consumption and advertising would have to be prohibited, according to the public health officials at the conference. Can you say big government?
Also featured at the convention was a cable documentary—titled Weight of the Nation like the government-sponsored event—that includes costly obesity studies bankrolled by American taxpayers. In fiscal year 2011 obesity research totaled $830 million, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the nation’s medical research agency. Some of the earth-shattering revelations that have come from this expensive work appear to be common sense.
For instance, the studies have determined that “effective lifestyle changes” can be implemented in communities (presumably the poor ones that are disproportionately affected) to reduce weight, lower risk factors for heart disease and prevent or delay type 2 diabetes. In other words, eat less and exercise more. Researchers have also found that exposure in the womb to maternal obesity or diabetes may increase the risk of obesity or diabetes in offspring.
“If we don’t take the obesity epidemic seriously as individuals and as a nation, we will pay a serious price,” said Dr. Francis S. Collins, the director of the NIH. “It’s going to take diverse and rigorous research to understand the causes of obesity and to identify interventions that work in the real world.” Dr. Collins further assures that the results from federally funded research can “help prevent and treat obesity and its complications.”
It sure sounds like the good doctor is laying the groundwork to hit Congress up for more cash to study fat people. After all, his agency has determined that obesity is a deadly crisis in America because more than one-third of adults and nearly 17% of children are too fat and therefore racking up medical costs to the tune of $147 billion a year.
Charges for the Aircraft and Crew Alone Amount to $424,142
Press Office 202-646-5172, ext 305
- According to U.S. Department of Defense’s published hourly rates for the C-32A aircraft used for the trip, Judicial Watch calculated the total cost to American taxpayers was $424,142 for use of the aircraft (34.8 flight hours x $12,188 per hour). (The C-32 is a specially configured military version of the Boeing 757.) Other expenses – meals (off the plane), transportation, security, various services, etc. – have yet to be disclosed.
- The passenger manifests confirm the presence of Obama’s daughter’s, Malia and Sasha on the trip. The two girls are listed as “Senior Staff.” The manifests also list Mrs. Obama’s mother, Marian Robinson, and niece and nephew, Leslie and Avery Robinson, as well Mrs. Obama’s makeup and hairstylist (Carl Ray and Johnny Wright).
- The expense records also show $928.44 was spent for “bulk food” purchases on flight. Overall, during the trip, 192 meals were served for the 21 passengers on board.
The professed purpose of Michelle Obama’s trip to South Africa and Botswana was to encourage young people living in the two growing democracies to become involved in national affairs; and during her scheduled stops in Pretoria and Cape Town, South Africa and in Gaborone, the capital of Botswana, the First Lady used the opportunity to speak on education, health and wellness issues.The trip also included such tourist events as visits to historical landmarks and museums, plus a nonworking chance to send time with Nelson Mandela, a meeting that Mrs. Obama described as “surreal.” The trip ended with a private family safari at a South African game reserve before the group returned to Washington on June 27.“This trip was as much an opportunity for the Obama family to go on a safari as it was a trip to conduct government business,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “This junket wasted tax dollars and the resources of our overextended military. No wonder we had to sue to pry loose this information.”
Military Aircraft Alone Reportedly Cost at least $430,000
Press Office 202-646-5172, ext 305
Judicial Watch, the organization that investigates and fights government corruption, announced today that it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit on August 19, 2011, against the United States Air Force to obtain records related to the June 21-27, 2011, trip taken by First Lady Michelle Obama, her family, and her staff to South Africa and Botswana (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Air Force (No. 11-1496)). Judicial Watch is seeking the documents to determine details about the trip and, in particular, a breakdown of the costs to taxpayers.
- Any and all records concerning mission taskings of First Lady Michelle Obama’s June 21-27,
2011 trip to South Africa and Botswana.
- Any and all records of concerning transportation costs for Mrs. Obama’s June 21-27 trip to
South Africa and Botswana.
- Any and all passenger manifests (DD-2131) for Mrs. Obama’s June 21-27, 2011 trip to South
Africa and Botswana.
According the U.S. Postal Service records, Judicial Watch’s FOIA request was received by the Air Force on July 6, 2011. A response to the request was due within 20 working days, or by August 3, 2011. As of August 19, 2011, the date of the complaint, the Air Force has failed to produce the records requested or respond with a date they will be forthcoming.The professed purpose of Mrs. Obama’s trip was to encourage young people living in South Africa and Botswana to get involved in national affairs. The First Lady’s remarks focused on education, health, and wellness issues. However, accompanied by her daughters Malia and Sasha, her mother, Marian Robinson, and her niece and nephew, Leslie and Avery Robinson, the trip also included such tourist events as visits to historical landmarks and museums as well as a visit with Nelson Mandela, described by Mrs. Obama as “surreal”. The trip ended with a private family safari at a South African game reserve before the group returned to Washington on June 27.Judicial Watch is investigating the total cost of the trip to the taxpayers in the face of a ballooning federal debt and a sinking economy. As stated in an analysis by White House Dossier (the blog of White House reporter Keith Koffer, who writes for CongressDaily, National Journal, Roll Call and Politico), the cost to taxpayers for the C-32 was $430,000 alone. This cost is based on an estimated charge of $12,723 an hour, which is what the Department of Defense charges other federal agencies for use of the aircraft. If a military cargo plane was included – which typically accompanies a First Lady – the cost of transportation could have escalated by another $200,000.Other costs, such as Secret Service protection, the care and feeding of staff, and pre-trip advance work done by administration officials in Africa, cannot be determined without examining records.“How much did the American people spend to send the First Lady on a family outing in Africa? That’s what we want to know,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “On the surface, the trip seems to have been totally unnecessary and was as much an excuse for the Obama family to go on a safari as it was a mission intended to advance the nation’s business in Africa.”Previously, Judicial Watch uncovered that the First Couple’s 2009 “date night” trip to New York for dinner and a Broadway show cost taxpayers over $11,000 in Secret Service costs alone.Judicial Watch continues to probe the abuse of Air Force Aircraft by Members of Congress. For example, former Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s military travel cost the United States Air Force $2,100,744.59 over a two-year period – $101,429.14 of which was for in-flight expenses, including food and alcohol. Judicial Watch also uncovered documents showing the widespread use of luxury military aircraft by Members of Congress on Speaker-authorized congressional delegation trips (CODELS).
While Michelle Obama’s $4.5 billion measure to control the American diet focuses on tackling childhood obesity by replacing French fries with salad bars, doctors across the nation report a growing epidemic of “dangerously thin” kids.It makes for an astounding irony considering the First Lady got Congress to pass her much-ballyhooed law, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, to end childhood hunger in low-income neighborhoods. The campaign however, has focused more on the “healthy” part that aims to combat childhood obesity, which Michelle Obama claims is most prevalent among the poor and ethnic minorities.That’s why her initiative has been largely dedicated to revolutionizing the inner city diet by providing fresh produce and grilled lean meats as alternatives to greasy, fried foods that tend to be more popular in poor neighborhoods. The primary targets are “at-risk” children who will get free nutritious meals from U.S. taxpayers, with the government deciding what exactly constitutes healthy cuisine.A few months ago taxpayers financed a dubious $2 million project in which a high-tech device tracked what minority public school children ate for lunch in one Texas district. The idea was to calculate how many lunchtime calories poor and minority kids consumed at five elementary schools targeted by the First Lady’s childhood obesity revolution. The goal was to inspire parents to change their children’s eating habits at home.While Michelle Obama’s campaign wastes money on this sort of nonsense, doctors in hospitals across the nation report a disturbing trend of severely malnourished kids whose families have fallen on hard times. Emergency room physicians say they are seeing the highest number of hungry and dangerously thin young children in a decade. The resulting chronic hunger could leave countless infants and toddlers with serious developmental problems, according to doctors quoted in a Massachusetts newspaper report.The article focused on a major Boston hospital where physicians reveal that the number of underweight youngsters has significantly increased in the last few years with the figure expected to rise. Pediatricians at hospitals in other cities—including Baltimore and Philadelphia—also reported big increases in the number of malnourished and hungry children they have seen in the last few years.This certainly questions the priorities surrounding the multibillion-dollar law Michelle Obama’s is credited with passing. When her husband signed it in 2010 it was celebrated as a way to “raise a healthier generation of kids.” Cabinet officials assured it would allow the administration to be “much more effective and aggressive” in responding to hunger challenges for America’s kids and that it would provide them with “healthier and more nutritious food.”
Michelle Obama’s White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity has teamed up with yet another federal agency—the Department of Health and Human Services—to launch a costly national initiative, this time targeting infants and toddlers.Young children in day care centers across the nation will eat healthy foods that include fish, fruit and salads and they will participate in 1-2 hours of exercise daily under the plan (Lets Move Child Care). The goal is to promote healthy eating and exercise habits early and prevent childhood obesity.It’s part of the First Lady’s $4.5 billion measure (The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act) to revolutionize the inner-city diet by providing fresh produce and grilled lean meats as alternatives to greasy, fried foods that tend to be more popular in low-income neighborhoods. The Obama Administration has labeled these area’s “food deserts” and has so far dedicated tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to provide them with affordable healthy fare.The primary targets are poor and “at-risk” children who will get free nutritious meals fromU.S. taxpayers, with the government deciding what exactly constitutes healthy cuisine. Michelle Obama’s latest initiative, announced this week at a bilingual daycare center inWashington D.C., targets babies that can barely crawl.“If our kids get into the habit of getting up and playing, if their palates warm up to veggies at an early age, and if they’re not glued to a TV screen all day, they’re on their way to healthy habits for life,” Obama said during a media event at the center, called Centro Nia.Her new plan has five key elements that go from “infancy through preschool.” They include 1-2 hours of physical activity, no television for children under 2, fruits and vegetables at every meal, no sugary drinks and breastfeeding. Uncle Sam will, of course, subsidize the program, which Obama assures is a “building block for an entire generation of healthy kids.”