PUBLISHED: 16:40 EST, 5 August 2013 | UPDATED: 16:46 EST, 5 August 2013
Attorney General Eric Holder spoke at the April 2011 convention of the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, charging taxpayers $15,452.50 for his travel
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s travel expenses exceeded $4 million for 213 separate trips during President Obama’s first term in office, according to documents obtained through the Freedom Of Information Act.
The expenses, incurred between March 2009 and August 2012, were all borne by taxpayers – including those covering several personal trips. Holder typically travels on a government-owned Gulfstream V jet, whose retail cost is more than $53.5 million. The U.S. government owns at least five such aircraft.
Judicial Watch released the documents Monday, showing that the attorney general billed his agency more than $113,000 in travel expenses for four trips he made, while in office, to speak to liberal advocacy groups.
Holder’s very first taxpayer-funded trip was to an April 2009 ‘US/Mexico Arms Trafficking Strategy Meeting.’
According to the speech that the DOJ prepared for him, Holder told U.S. and Mexican law enforcement officials in Cuernavaca, Mexico that he was ‘committing 100 new ATF personnel to the Southwest border in the next 100 days to supplement our ongoing Project Gunrunner.’
Gunrunner was a precursor to the better-known Operation Fast and Furious. Both programs involved using ‘straw purchasers’ to track illegal guns carried across the U.S.-Mexico border.
Holder later testified before Congress that he had no knowledge of the tactics used in the program, and wrote in a subsequent letter that he had ‘no recollection of knowing about Fast and Furious … Prior to early 2011, I certainly never knew about the tactics employed in the operation.’
Holder’s other trips during Obama’s first term in the White House included personal jaunts to Atlantic City; Chicago; Miami; Cleveland; Raleigh, North Carolina; Savannah and Macon, Georgia; Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts; and Farmingdale, New York. Many of the documents Judicial Watch obtained include Holder’s personal expense reports for room service and lodging.
And while most of the travel expenses covered events and meetings that fit within Holder’s position, he also billed the Department of Justice for travel related to commencement speeches at several universities whose endowments are in the billions of dollars.
Like most federal government VIPs, Holder can take expensive private aircraft for personal travel, while only reimbursing the government for the equivalent point-to-point coach fare. The balance, amounting to more than $697,000, comes out of taxpayer dollars.
It’s unlikely that speaking engagements count as personal travel, even when they serve political groups that have a stake in ongoing Justice Department proceedings.
The National Council of La Raza, the NAACP, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the National Urban League and Al Sharpton’s National Action Network all have vested interests in the ongoing immigration battles, and in voting rights cases where Holder has sided with advocates against voter-ID laws.
The federal government covered his travel expenses for trips to speak to all four groups. That included flights on a Department of Defense plane for the NAACP annual meeting in 2012, a trip whose expenses weren’t itemized in the documents Judicial Watch reviewed.
Holder also gave commencement speeches and other addresses at the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University and Princeton University, all wealthy Ivy League schools, and at Tulane University, Vanderbilt University, the University of Virginia and five different law schools.
Those expenses, totaling more than $216,000, were billed to the government, despite universities’ common practice of reimbursing commencement speakers for their travel and paying them honoraria.
The DOJ did not respond to a request for comment.
But Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton said he hopes ‘these documents help Attorney General Holder understand the burden his unnecessary personal travel places on American taxpayers.’
‘The notion that federal officials such as Holder have access to a fleet of luxury jets for discounted personal travel for “security” reasons should strike most Americans as a scam that needs to be reformed,’ he said.
Holder’s expense report from his June 28, 2012 speech to the League of United Latin American Citizens in Lake Buena Vista, Florida included $38,108 in ‘business and personal’ expenses
The U.S. attorney general filed travel reports for at least 11 university speeches — at a total cost to taxpayers of more than $216,000 — including a March 2012 address at the Northwestern University law school
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