Michelle Obama’s two-day hotel stay in Cambodia cost taxpayers $242,500 – for two official events that took a total of 33 minutes

March 31, 2015

Submitted by:  Veronica Coffin

  • The US first lady, her entourage and their security staff racked up $7,348 of lodging charges for every minute she spent on the job
  • Michelle Obama spoke to a group of 10 high school girls and addressed a Peace Corps event
  • Luxury hotel included butler service, a top-notch spa and ‘the largest free form swimming pool in Cambodia’
  • Trip was earmarked as a female-empowerment exercise but the State Department shoehorned her travel into a document that refers to a VIP ‘and HIS traveling staff’

By David Martosko, Us Political Editor For Dailymail.com

First lady Michelle Obama’s recent trip to Cambodia this month cost taxpayers $242,500 – for hotel rooms alone – allowing her to perform her offical duties at two events for a total of 33 minutes. That’s $7,348 of lodging costs for every minute on the job.

A government contracting document shows that the State Department authorized spending nearly a quarter-million dollars so Mrs. Obama – traveiling with an entourage of high-ranking government officials and their security detail – could promote the ‘Let Girls Learn’ initiative, which girls’ access to education.

Transcripts provided to media by the White House Press Office indicate that Mrs. Obama spoke with a group of 10 girls at Hun Sen Bakorng High School for 21 minutes. After that appearance, she spoke at a Peace Corps Training Round Table event for 12 more minutes.

That second appearance took place conveniently at the luxury five-star Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort in Siem Reap, Cabodia, where she was staying. The government booked 85 separate rooms for 14 nights, even though the first lady only stayed there for two.


The Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort, where        Michelle Obama and her retinue stayed this month, boasts Cambodia's largest free-form swimming pool

The Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort, where Michelle Obama and her retinue stayed this month, boasts Cambodia’s largest free-form swimming pool

Don’t forget to tip the butler! The US first lady left Siem Reap’s international airport on March 22 after two nights at the five-star resort as part of a five-day Asia trip highlighting the importance of girls’ education

FIVE STARS: Mrs. Obama’s lodgings were among the finest Cambodia has to offer international tourists

The State Department ruled on March 3 that there was no time to solicit competitive bids for the March 21 trip, and ruled that the ‘unusual and compelling urgency’ of the first lady’s travel justified a no-bid contract to the Sofitel resort.

In addition to the 85 guest rooms, her trip to Siem Reap required five office suites, five ‘sleeping suites’ and a conference room.

If Mrs. Obama stayed in one of those ‘sleeping suites,’ she had her own butler. They come standard.

‘The Siem Reap hotel, which elegantly combines Khmer and French architectural design, features landscaped gardens, 5 restaurants and bars, meeting facilities, a luxury spa and the largest free form swimming pool in Cambodia,’ the resort’s website boasts.

‘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 min[ute] drive from the hotel.’

Mrs. Obama made the most of what became the first trip by a sitting US president’s wife to Cambodia, visiting Angkor Wat temple in Siem Reap province

And for tourist-minded spouses of world leaders, the hotel ‘is close to the Angkor Temples, spectacular sunsets at the Bakheng Hill, Siem Reap River, Old market, 20 minutes away from the International Airport and just walking distance to Siem Reap National Museum.’

She took full advantage, the White House Press Office relayed, visiting the temples at Angkor Wat when she wasn’t meeting-and-greeting embassy staff.

The first lady’s lodging expenses in Cambodia were first reported by the Washington Free Beacon. They came at the tail end of a five-day Asia trip to promote girls’ education.

A few other smaller hotel contracts were awarded in Cambodia at the same time as the Sofitel’s.

The State Department justified the rush-job with hotel booking by noting that ‘[s]ecurity concerns prohibit sufficient advanced notification of VIP travel to allow for sufficient time to conduct full and open competition.’

Michelle Obama walked with Cambodian first lady Bun Rany (right), the wife of Prime Minister Hun Sen, as they arrived at a school where they met with a group of 10 female students for 21 minutes

Mrs. Obama, her entourage and their security detail contemplated the 'crisis' of girls' education at a resort that features a swim-up bar

Mrs. Obama, her entourage and their security detail contemplated the ‘crisis’ of girls’ education at a resort that features a swim-up bar

JUST LIKE HOME! President Obama’s wife is accustomed to fine wines and cheese at the White House, and the Sofitel didn’t disappoint

‘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.’

The contracting document referred to her as a ‘Senior High Level USG [U.S. Government] VIP,’ although the title of ‘first lady’ is honorary and has no official government function.

Her accommodation arrangements, in fact, were apparently shoehorned into a generic form typically used for male VIPs.

‘Security and logistical teams make determinations during the site survey as to which hotels are most suitable for the Senior High Level USG VIP and his traveling staff to remain overnight,’ the contracting document reads.

Michelle Obama Hotel Justification for Cambodia

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