Apart from partisan gripes — Democrats complained about President George W. Bush’s travel — is a question of using taxpayer money for activities perceived as having a political element. Often, fundraisers are tacked on to an official trip.
That formula will be on display this week in Florida. On Thursday afternoon, Obama will hold an official event at the University of Miami, where he’ll discuss plans to shore up the economy. But while in town, he’ll rake cash at the Biltmore Hotel and the home of Democratic fundraiser Chris Korge, where a photo with the president will cost $15,000.
After that, Air Force One will ferry him to Orlando for a $30,000 per-person fundraising dinner at the home of NBA star Vince Carter.
Taxpayers will pick up a big part of the cost.
When Obama took Air Force One to Orlando last month for an official event focused on growing tourism, it cost $179,750 per flight hour (including fuel, annual maintenance and other costs). The trip down was two hours and afterward, Obama flew to New York for a fundraiser before returning to Washington. Total air time was about five hours, or $898,000.
For the political portion — the trip to New York — Obama and any travelers are only required to pay the government a fee equivalent to a first-class fare. An array of other costs, from security to communications, are picked up by the government.