Judicial Watch Uncovers Cost of Michelle Obamas Africa Trip

Michelle Obama's mother, Marian Robinson, akes a bow after they danced with children during a visit to the Emthonjeni Community Center in Zandspruit Township, Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo: AP)

The watchdog group Judicial Watch has done some good ol’ fashion investigative work and number-crunching and come up with some figures regarding how much Michelle Obama’s summer trip to South Africa cost. Here’s what it found.

The group filed a freedom of Information Act request “seeking the mission taskings, transportation records, and passenger manifests for Michelle Obama’s Africa trip. It finally got them after filing a lawsuit.

It found the U.S. Air Force provided a C-32A aircraft, which is a modified Boeing 757, and that the cost for flying the First Lady and her entourage to and from Africa was $424,142 (34.8 flight hours x $12,188 per hour). In addition, it reports another $928.44 was spent on providing 192 meals for the 21 people who made the trip.

So who was part of the entourage? Well, as was reported at the time, the Obamas’ children — Sasha and Malia — as well as Michelle’s mother and niece and nephew joined her on the trip, which also included a personal safari and visit to Nelson Mandela. But here’s where it could get interesting: Judicial watch found that the manifest lists some of them as “senior staff:”

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).

It’s unclear if the costs are what would be expected for such a trip. It’s also unclear if it is common practice to list family members as “senior staff.”The information, then, might not fit into the “oh my God” category and instead should be filed under “interesting.”

Might.