Wednesday, May 1, 2013

President Obama's $2.5M Hotel and 'Vehicle Rental' Tab on Last Mexico Trip

    As the White House first announced in March, Barack Obama is scheduled to visit Mexico and Costa Rica later this week. The trip is billed as "an important opportunity to reinforce the deep cultural, familial, and economic ties that so many Americans share with Mexico and Central America." And at yesterday’s White House press conference, the president stated that he is "very much looking forward to taking the trip down to Mexico" this week.
    But the trip won’t exactly be cheap for taxpayers, assuming the costs mirror those incurred by the American taxpayers for President Obama's last trip to Mexico, for the G-20 summit in June 2012. According to recently discovered documents relating to the costs of that trip, taxpayers paid nearly $2.5 million for hotel and “vehicle rental.”
    The first government document is a contract with a travel agent for the hotels required for the president's delegation and entourage for the conference:

    The accompanying Justification and Approval (J&A) document estimates the total cost at $1,889,388.60, with a maximum payout of $2,078,327.46.  The document does not give details concerning the number of rooms or other special requirements.  It notes the usual security concerns and time constraints that apply to such VIP trips, but also lists this additional restriction imposed by the Mexican government:

    The second document relates to transportation needs for the presidential delegation for the G-20 visit.   The J&A accompanying this contract estimates the cost of transportation-vehicle rental at $630,760.00 with a maximum of $693,836.00, and also notes that the same company, Operadora Transtur, which had been contracted for an earlier visit to Los Cabos by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and was the best value:

     Both contracts were approved in late May 2012, a few weeks before the trip, but were not posted on the fbo.gov website until more recently. Although members of the president's travel party arrived in advance of the president and departed later, President Obama himself stayed in Mexico two nights.
    Regarding the president's upcoming trip, the Washington Examiner reported that there has been some speculation that the true motives for the trip may revolve more around the president's push for immigration reform.  And at a White House meeting on Monday with Latino leaders, President Obama discussed his upcoming trip to Mexico and Costa Rica.  The readout of the meeting provided by the White House concluded with, "At the meeting, the President made clear that immigration reform continues to be a top legislative priority this year."

Note:  This article first appeared at The Weekly Standard.

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