by Tom Fitton –
Imagine being able to jet off to golf weekend getaways on a whim. I don’t even golf but of course it would be nice to be able get out of dodge to avoid the nasty blizzard now arriving here in DC.
But it is good to be the king. Or president. Because Barack Obama jets off on Air Force One, without a seeming care in the world about the costs to taxapayers, for golf weekends on a regular basis.
We have just obtained records from the U.S. Department of the Air Force revealing that the October 2015 Columbus Day getaway enjoyed by President Barack Obama and his family cost taxpayers $969,783.90 in flight expenses alone. The documents regarding the Obama travel expenses came in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request first filed on October 13, 2015.
The new records obtained by our intrepid and insistent investigators show the Obama family’s October 11 flight from Los Angeles, where he had attended three high-dollar fundraisers, to San Diego, and then from San Diego back to Washington on October 12, required a total of 4.7 hours of flying time at $206,337 per hour. That brought the total flight cost to taxpayers to $969,783.90. The records do not include the flight time to travel from Washington, DC, to Los Angeles (through Oregon, Seattle, and San Francisco), nor the Secret Service costs or other expenses. But don’t worry, we have those numbers already on file. Previously released documents, show the flight time from Washington to Los Angeles to be five hours, which safely adds $1,031,685 and brings the known total to expense to $2,001,468.90.
According to press reports, Obama and his family spent their getaway weekend in San Diego at the luxurious Rancho Santa Fe resort community. With an estimated median income of $188, 859, Rancho Santa Fe is one of the highest income communities in the United States. According to the Rancho Santa Fe website, it boasts “one of the storied private golf courses in California,” with “one of the finest walkable designs in the world” where “you and your friends will cherish the memorable times.” Sure enough, President Obama reportedly spent several hours golfing.
The White House touted Obama’s trip to the West Coast as an opportunity for the president to push his gun control agenda in Eugene, Oregon, the site of the Umpqua Community College shooting the previous week. According to the White House schedule for Friday, October 9, however, Obama spent just two hours with the victims’ families before flying off to Seattle, Washington, for a Democratic National Committee (DNC) fundraiser. He then left Seattle to participate in a DNC fundraiser in San Francisco later that evening.
In San Francisco, Obama joined Kanye West for a high-dollar fundraiser at The Warfield Theater, which, according to its website, features “the hottest rock shows in the Bay Area.” There, he attacked the Republican Party for having “gone off the deep end.”
On Saturday, October 10, Obama extended his fundraising agenda with three additional high-dollar events, all in the Los Angeles area. According to Deadline.com, “In a whirlwind 6 1/2-hour visit to Los Angeles on Saturday, the fundraiser-in-chief will hit a trio of deep-pocket events…beginning with the home of the Star Wars director and wife Katie McGrath for a $33,400-per-person.”
The $2,001,468.90 Obama spent for his flights between DC and Los Angeles to vacation in San Diego brings his known total bill to the American taxpayers thus far for all Obama travel to $72,881,504.68. That comes to more than $10 million per year for each year he has been in office.
Political candidates, campaigns, and parties reimburse the federal government for only a small portion of the costs of presidential political travel. The most transparent administration in history keeps the formula for such cost-sharing secret.
The tens of millions in costs we know about is just the tip of the iceberg. The nearly $73 million cover Secret Service costs and one can’t imagine the costs to the Defense Department as it moves its command and control structure to support the Golfer-in-Chief.
And we should recall that the Secret Service agents who protect Barack Obama and his family aren’t superhuman. The constant presidential travel is a drag on the agency and a stress on the agents. A 2014 report by a special panel for the Department of Homeland Security confirms this, as it found that the Secret Service “is stretched to and, in many cases, beyond its limits.”
Barack Obama is now officially the 10-million-dollar man when it comes to wasteful presidential travel. It looks like that visit with grieving families was an excuse to get out to sunny California for some fundraising with celebrities such as Kanye West – and golfing.
Just to be clear, your JW is not concentrating solely on this president or one political party. Politicians abuse the perks of office all over Washington. I told you last week about the lawsuit we filed to find out about often-abuse official congressional delegation travel (CODELS), which often use Air Force luxury jets and support personnel, authorized by Republican leaders in the House and the Senate.
In the meantime, let’s work together to ensure that a year from now that the new president taking office is mindful of some of the markers on presidential travel abuse we have set down.
When James Madison argued in favor of a representative republic over a direct democracy in the Federalist Papers, he was most concerned about the emergence of political factions that would marginalize average citizens. But Madison’s constitutional arrangement presumed that elected representatives who exercise firm control over public policy decisions. Over past few decades, those elected representatives have surrendered policy making decisions to unaccountable, cumbersome, incompetent administrative agencies. Exhibit A: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Just a few days we released over 1,000 pages of new documents that show Obama amdinistration health care officials knew that the Obamacare website, when it launched in 2013, did not have the required “authorization to operate” (ATO) from agency information security officials. These documents, obtained from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), come in two productions of records: a 143-page production and an 886-page production. The email records reveal that HHS officials had significant concerns about the security of the Healthcare.gov site leading up to its October 1, 2013, launch.
Unless Congress steps up to restore Madison’s representative republic, it falls to groups like your JW to look out for the public interest against federal leviathan that is dangerously out of control.
We obtained the HHS documents in response to a court order in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit . The lawsuit was filed in March 2014, after HHS failed to respond to a December 20, 2013, FOIA request seeking the following information:
All records related to the security of the healthcare.gov web portal including, but not limited to, studies, memoranda, correspondence, electronic communications (e-mails), and slide presentations from January 1, 2012 to the present.
On September 21, 2013, 10 days before the launch of the Obamacare website, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Information Security Officer Tom Schankweiler discussed with Deputy Chief Information Officer Henry Chao 17 initial “moderate” security issues findings and two “high” security issues. Two high findings and 3 moderate findings were resolved, according to the documents. The emails also show that a separate security analysis found 17 “high” security issues, prompting Chao to ask, “What are we actually signing off on…?” Schankweiler responded that the numerous security issues resulted in CMS Security Officer Teresa Fryer’s refusing to approve the “ATO” (Authorization to Operate), something he indicated he found out belatedly.
The documents also show that on September 30, 2013, the day before the website launch, Blue Canopy, a contractor that was testing the security of the Healthcare.gov system, reported that the “parsing engine did not properly handle specially crafted messages.” The vendor added, “As a result, consumption of these messages would cause the service to crash.”
Over six weeks later, a November 6, 2013, email to colleagues George Linares, the acting chief technology officer of CMS, said that Healthcare.gov “is operating without an ATO [Authorization to Operate].” Further, he added, “Operating without an ATO is a serious issue and it represents a high risk to the agency.”
Does it not outrage you that the “risk to the agency” is the chief concern! We all know that Obamacare puts your health care – as you knew it – in jeopardy. It also puts your privacy and security in danger.
In a separate November 6, 2013, memo sent a month after the initial website launch, as HHS prepared for a relaunch, CMS security testing contractor Adam Willard warned CGI Federal programmer Balaji Ramamoorthy, “it is possible for anyone to run a brute force [attack] against Healthcare.gov to obtain the results of their eligibility.” (CGI Federal the Canadian-owned IT contractor hired by CMS to oversee most of the Healthcare.gov website development. The Obama administration announced in January 2014 that it was replacing CGI Federal and hiring Accenture at a cost of $90 million. Don’t cry for CGI, as it continues to get billions in federal contracts.)
Perhaps the most telling indications of security officials’ serious misgivings about the security of the Obamacare website, even after its launch, were the HHS roll call manifests providing information about attendance and actions at meetings to discuss whether to proceed with a relaunch of the site. Schankweiler, the key information security official, did not attend a November 2013 meeting to discuss deployment of a new version of Healthcare.gov and did not send a representative in his place. As he was not present, Schankweiler, representing “Security”, is listed as the only official not voting (either yes or no) to approve the Healthcare.gov “promotion” or relaunch.
Sure enough a few weeks after this meeting, on November 26, Schankweiler reiterated pressing security issues to CMS official Todd Couts: “I would like to escalate this ticket to high risk on the defect list. I know that a bunch of security risk have recently appeared on the list, but I wanted to let you know this one is considered a high priority.”
This Judicial Watch FOIA litigation previously uncovered that top CMS officials knew of massive security risks with Healthcare.gov before its launch and deliberately chose to rollout the website without resolving the problems. We also released “Sensitive Information – Special Handling” memos sent from CMS to Mitre Corporation, the Healthcare.gov security testing company, in which CMS rated “political … damage” and “public embarrassment to CMS” as factors in defining “Risk Rating” priorities. Judicial Watch also uncovered the previously secret involvement of the Department of Homeland Security in the Obamacare site and how the Obama White House further weakened privacy protections of Healthcare information on the Healthcare.gov website.
No wonder it took a federal court order to force out these new Obamacare scandal documents. The documents show the Obama administration cast aside the rules and knowingly allowed its Obamacare web site to put the most private health care information of millions of Americans at risk.
The Obama administration is prosecuting private companies for the same security lapses it knowingly allowed with its own Healthcare.gov.
Will Justice Department prosecutors now investigate the Obamacare website security scandal?
In the meantime, Americans, thanks to JW – not Congress or the Big Media – now have been warned about the high risk of using Healthcare.gov.
We are all jeopardy in the age of Obama.
Tom Fitton – President
425 3rd St, SW Suite 800
Washington, D.C. 20024