With the office of the Presidency comes certain perks, like taxpayer-funded air transportation. That fact has recently come under scrutiny with regard to the use of Air Force One for campaign trips during this election cycle. Coloradans were reminded of this during a 9News report about Obama’s stop in Denver’s City Park as part of his America Forward! fly-around tour of six states in 48 hours.
Besides Denver, Obama also will visit Davenport, IA, Los Angeles, Calif. (so he could appear on Leno), Las Vegas, Nevada, Tampa, Fla., Richmond, Va., Chicago, Cleveland, Ohio, and Washington, D.C. (We count nine cities, but we’re just writers, what do we know about math?)
Calling today the “single busiest day of [the President’s] re-election campaign”, 9News anchor, Kim Christiansen, revealed that President Obama would cover 5,300 miles in four states over the “next day or two” before showing a shot of Air Force One departing Buckley Air Force Base.
While the true cost to taxpayers of this campaignapalooza boondoggle remains to be seen, we have taken the liberty of guesstimating what these flights might cost. A May 2012 USAToday article about Air Force One costs uncovered that the use of the plane costs the Air Force $179,750 per hour to operate, according to a Congressional Research Service report. If Air Force One can travel at a maximum of about 650 miles per hour, and Obama and his entourage will travel 5,300 miles, the use of the plane for this campaign trip will cost nearly $1.5 million for the 48-hour whirlwind tour. But, that figure is on the conservative end. The typical “cruising speed” of a Boeing 747, which is the typical Air Force One model, is 550 miles per hour. If that’s the case, the President will rack up a $1.75 million bill. But, that’s still on the conservative end, according to USAToday: “Costs for each trip are even higher when factoring in the passenger and cargo aircraft that often accompany the president’s plane.”
The article also noted that taxpayers cover the cost of trips for official business, and campaign organizations reimburse the government for whatever portion of a trip is deemed political, but the CRS report acknowledged the accounting is something of a mystery:
“It is unclear how the White House designates travel that is not directly related to a governmental or political function because of traditional reluctance to address this matter,” the report said.
Due to the President’s security requirements, using Air Force One for campaigning is likely unavoidable, but that doesn’t make the reality that taxpayers may be on the hook for some of this tour any easier to swallow.