First lady Michelle Obama's three-day, four-city hop scotch to promote the third anniversary of her "Let's Move!" initiative that cheers healthy eating and exercise will likely cost an estimated $50,000 or more, enough to fund a few programs for kids that the White House fears the sequester will kill.
Obama left Washington Wednesday for Clinton, Miss. where she will join celebrity chef Rachael Ray to promote healthy school lunches. She was accompanied by White House chef Sam Kass, her food advisor, and who also manages the first lady's veggie garden and brews the first family's honey beer.
From there, she travels to Chicago and then Springfield, Mo. on Thursday. The celebration of healthy eating and PE began over the weekend when the first lady traveled to New York to star on the Jimmy Fallon Show.
The first lady's travels will cover about 3,200 miles. She has in the past taken a variety of government jets for trips, from the smallish C-37 to a larger 737. Her trips have been the focus of watchdog group Judicial Watch, which, for example, received documents that put one recent skip trip to Aspen, Colo., at over $83,000.
Using their calculations based on receipts provided under the Freedom of Information Act, and figuring the small C-37, the price for Obama's travel alone is just shy of $30,000.
Past Judicial Watch probes also show that Secret Service protection, snacks, car rentals and hotels can easily double that cost--or more.
While the first lady gets credit for helping turn the tide on childhood obesity, her trip comes as the White House is warning that the sequester will sharply damage federal programs for the underprivileged. Some examples from the White House: In Wyoming, $16,000 will be lost to give 230 children vaccines; In Delaware, $19,000 will be lost to help 100 women of domestic violence; and in Iowa, $61,000 will be cut, resulting in 1,500 fewer HIV tests.
The president's travels to warn of the sequester danger have also come under the microscope, especially since Air Force One costs $180,000 an hour to fly.
Said Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, "The Obama White House wastes millions on non-essential luxury travel for the first family. Our military's resources are being misused for luxury vacations and, in this instance, a PR opportunity for Michelle Obama."