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HindustanTimes Thu,31 Jul 2014

'Obama's State Dinner for Manmohan Singh the most expensive'

PTI  Washington, February 13, 2014
First Published: 01:17 IST(13/2/2014) | Last Updated: 01:21 IST(13/2/2014)

US President Barack Obama has spent a whopping USD 1.55 million on five of his state dinners since 2009, with the most expensive of them being the first one hosted in honour of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

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Records from the state department office of Protocol, whose budget covers state dinners, show they can cost taxpayers in excess of half a million dollars per event, CBS News reported.

In response to a Freedom of Information request which it took the state department 13 months to respond, CBS News has obtained the office of Protocol's expense calculations for the first five state dinners of the Obama presidency.

The Obama administration spent USD 572,187.36 for the state dinner for Singh at the White House on November 24, 2009.

Obama hosted Mexican President Felipe Calderon on May 19, 2010, at a cost of USD 563,479.92.
He held his third state dinner on January 19, 2011, for Chinese President Hu Jintao at a cost of USD 412,329.73.

Obama held the fourth state dinner on June 7, 2011, for German chancellor Angela Merkel and the cost was USD 215,883.36.

The fifth state dinner was held on October 13, 2011, for South Korean President Lee Myung-bak at a cost of USD 203,053.34, the CBS report said.

It said the state department has not yet responded to another Freedom of Information request filed seven months ago for its rundown of the expenses for the sixth state dinner honoring British Prime Minister David Cameron on March 14, 2012.

Obama hosted French President Francois Hollande during his seventh state dinner last night.

The US Congress has been waiting for similar information from the state department even longer, it said.

In a letter to then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton dated November 1, 2012, Darrell Issa, a Republican lawmaker from California, chairman of the house committee on oversight and government reform, had expressed concern about the costs of state dinners and asked for an accounting.

"Please provide," wrote Issa, "an itemised list of costs and expenses for each of the last six state dinners, including, but not limited to, amounts paid, including reimbursements, for non-government event planners, entertainers and chefs." Issa gave Clinton two weeks, until November 15, 2012, to respond to his request.
The CBS, quoting a staffer says the committee never received a response from Clinton or the state department, the report said.

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