WASHINGTON--Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group, is suing the U.S. Air Force to force the disclosure of records surrounding the cost of an official trip First Lady Michelle Obama took earlier this year to to South Africa and Botswana with her mother, daughters Malia and Sasha and Leslie and Avery Robinson, the children of her brother, Craig.
"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," the organization said in a statement. The lawsuit was filed because the Air Force "failed to produce" the requested records after a Freedom of Information Act request, Judicial Watch said.
The First Lady--no matter if the administration is Democratic or Republican--always travels on U.S. government aircraft and with staff and security personnel. The government is supposed to be reimbursed for personnel expenses.
Mrs. Obama communications chief Kristina Schake said in a statement, "The First Lady's visit to South Africa and Botswana was an official trip focused on youth leadership, education, health and wellness.
"This visit to these two critical countries underscored that the United States has an important stake in the success of Africa's many nations and underscored the historic connections between the American people and those who live on the African continent. And as with all previous First Ladies who incurred personal costs when they were with their families, the Obamas and this Administration followed all rules and regulations regarding use and reimbursement of federal funds for travel, including reimbursement of personal costs incurred while on official travel."
In 2009, Judicial Watch obtained documents through the Freedom of Information Act from the U.S. Secret Service documenting $11,648.17 in security costs related to President Obama's "date night" with Mrs. Obama on May 30, 2009 in New York City.
The group has an FOIA pending with the Secret Service on Mrs. Obama's Spanish trip from last year. I'm also told by the group, "in addition, we've done travel-related FOIAs on the (Obama) Olympics trip to Copenhagen, Speaker Pelosi and congressional junkets, and - most recently--- on Speaker Boehner's travel."