Presidential Travel Update
by Michael Tasselmyer
In what appears to be the last of his official scheduled travel for the year, President Obama has made stops in China and Burma and visited Australia on November 15 as he attended international summits and met with key government leaders. According to the White House, the trip is the President’s sixth trip to the region since he took office.
In addition to attending meetings with the Trans-Pacific Partnership to discuss trade policy and formulating regional economic goals at the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, the President used the opportunity to sign off on an agreement with China – one of the world’s largest producers of greenhouse gas emissions – that would reduce America’s carbon output by 28 percent over the next ten years. China’s responsibility under the agreement involves capping its emissions (not necessarily reducing them) and deriving 20 percent of its energy production from renewable sources by 2030. The plan has already received strong criticism from a Congress that is now dominated by Republicans.
Policy and diplomatic negotiations are always the primary focus of any President’s foreign travels, but there are also logistical considerations that go into these trips that directly impact taxpayers. NTU Foundation has been tracking Presidential travel for several years now, shedding light on what little we do know about the costs of such trips as well as a comparison of how often and for how long each President goes abroad. Now that President Obama’s sixth year travels are just about wrapped up, we’ve updated our data accordingly.
Now that the President has returned from Asia, he has spent 147 days abroad over 37 trips to 83 foreign countries (which includes those he has visited more than once). That is slightly more than the 143 days that George W. Bush had spent abroad at this point in his presidency, but less than the 158 we recorded for President Clinton through six years. If he keeps up his current pace – on average, 24.5 days abroad per year – President Obama will have spent 196 days abroad after 8 years. That would be less than the 215 days we recorded for President Bush and the 233 we noted for President Clinton.
Mr. Obama has visited France and Mexico five times, making them the most popular destination for his foreign travels. His recent trip to China, Burma, and Australia will be the second time he has visited each of those countries.
When it comes to costs, taxpayers are largely left in the dark regarding how much of each President’s foreign travel they pay for. The only data that has been confirmed is the cost per flight hour of Air Force One, which comes out to $228,288 and represents the cost of fuel, flight consumables, and repairs. At that rate the 12.5-hour trip from Washington, D.C., to Beijing would cost about $2.9 million for Air Force One alone; that does not include the cost for bringing along the extensive security and medical details, multiple cargo aircraft, and land transportation that all diplomatic travel requires.
Michael Tasselmyer is the Policy Analyst for the National Taxpayers Union Foundation.
For more on Presidential travel and its costs, check out NTUF’s past studies on the subject at www.ntu.org/foundation.
This article originally appeared on November 16, 2014 in the Taxpayer's Tab Update by National Taxpayers Union Foundation, http://www.ntu.org/foundation/detail/latest-taxpayers-tab-travel-update-new-senate-analysis. Reprinted with permission.
Transparency Issues From the November Election Returns
by Jennifer L. Crull
Last month’s IOWA TRANSPARENCY NEWSLETTER discussed Prop 104 from Colorado. The proposition would require negotiations between school officials and union members to be open to the public. We are happy to report that this issue passed with 70 percent approval. Jon Caldara, President of The Independence Institute, said, “This was an issue of transparency and we believe that secrecy is the enemy of good government.” He went on to say, “It tells me that Coloradoans demand open government. Coloradoans want to see what goes on in those smoky back rooms.”
The state of Hawaii passed legislative constitutional amendment HB420. The amendment requires that for judicial appointments the commission is to publically disclose its list of nominees. This was approved by 89 percent. “Supporters argued that the amendment would increase the public’s confidence in the judicial selection process, while opponents believed the measure would make good potential judges nervous about the selection process.”
With all election outcomes the American people are demanding more accountability and openness with all aspects of government. This is an important issue that politicians need to remember in the coming months. The issue of transparency has allowed for government to become more accountable to the taxpayers. It is always important to know where your elected officials stand on the issue of transparency and how they relate it to their office and dealing with taxpayer dollars.
 Nelson Garcia, “Proposition 104 passes meaning all teachers union negotiations will be open to the public. What does that mean for the future of the unions?” KUSA, November 5, 2014, <http://www.9news.com/story/news/education/2014/11/05/proposition-104-promises-open-teacher-negotiations/18565361/> accessed on November 12, 2014.
 “Hawaii Disclosure of Judicial Nominees’ Names, Amendment 1(2014),” Ballotpedia, <http://ballotpedia.org/Hawaii_Disclosure_of_Judicial_Nominees’_Names,_Amendment_1_ (2014)> accessed on November 12, 2014.
IOWA TRANSPARENCY NEWSLETTER is a monthly newsletter reporting on government transparency in our state.
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