Michelle Obama’s Frivolous Trip to Cambodia Cost Taxpayers a Small Fortune
First Lady Michelle Obama just returned from a trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia, and instead of a t-shirt, she brought home to the American taxpayer a hotel bill of $242,500. The quarter of a million dollar plus price tag covers 85 single rooms, five sleeping suites, five office suites and one conference room for fourteen days, although Ms. Obama herself stayed only two days.
The information appears in an article in the Washington Free Beacon:
Mrs. Obama traveled to Siem Reap, Cambodia on March 21 to promote a girls education initiative. A contract was awarded on March 3, citing the “unusual and compelling urgency” of the First Lady’s trip.
Mrs. Obama and a delegation of senior high-level U.S. government officials stayed at the Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort, according to a justification and approval document for the visit…
The Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra is listed as a luxury five-star hotel.
“The Siem Reap hotel, which elegantly combines Khmer and French architectural design, features landscaped gardens, [five] restaurants and bars, meeting facilities, a luxury spa and the largest free form swimming pool in Cambodia,” according to Accor, the French hotel operator that manages the hotel. “The leading luxury resort in Siem Reap also boosts a world-class 18-hole golf course at the Phokeethra Country Club, which is only a 25 [minute] drive from the hotel.”
Suites at the Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra come with personal butler service.
Mrs. Obama traveled to Japan and Cambodia to promote the Let Girls Learn initiative, a global campaign to increase educational opportunities for girls. The First Lady held two public events while in Siem Reap, speaking for a total of 33 minutes.
Mrs. Obama spent 21 minutes talking with a group of 10 female students at Hun Sen Bakorng High School, according to a White House transcript on March 21. She then went back to the hotel to speak at Peace Corps Training Round Table for 12 minutes.
The First Lady also visited the Angkor Wat temple complex, and held a meet and greet with embassy employees while in Cambodia, according to the White House press office.
The State Department issued the contract in support of the U.S. Embassy in Phnomn Penh, Cambodia. A spokesman explained that security issues mandate that hotel accommodations for the First Lady be made without advance notice, and cannot be covered by the normal competitive bidding process.
“Security concerns prohibit sufficient advanced notification of VIP travel to allow for sufficient time to conduct full and open competition. The Department of State can only communicate with the staff at Posts abroad when authorization is given due to security concerns. They have an extremely short turnaround time when authorization has been granted for negotiations to commence and site selections to be finalized with both the local vendors and Posts before the actual Senior High Level USG VIP visit occurs.”
Special security and logistical teams survey travel sites in advance, and determine which hotels are appropriate for government VIPs and staff to occupy during foreign travel.