President Obama has spent far more lavishly on White House state dinners than previous chief executives, including nearly $1 million on a 2010 dinner for Mexico’s president, according to documents obtained by The Washington Examiner.
But current and former government officials said the documents obtained by The Examiner point to an unprecedented upsurge in White House spending on such events.
The Obama extravaganza two years ago for Mexican President Felipe Calderon, which included a performance by pop star Beyonce, cost $969,793, or more than $4,700 per attendee, the documents show.
The Calderon dinner was held on the South Lawn in a massive tent adorned with decorated walls, hanging chandeliers, carpeting and a stage for Beyonce’s performance.
Guests rode private trolley cars from the White House to the tent. Celebrity guest chef Rick Bayless from Chicago’s Topolobampo restaurant was imported to prepare Oaxacan black mole, black bean tamalon and grilled green beans.
Of course, that much extravagence wouldn’t be complete unless unseemly whiffs of crony capitalism were wafting about.
The documents also reveal that the Obama White House retained an outside planner for the dinners. Bryan Rafanelli, a Boston-based celebrity event planner who was retained last year, managed former first daughter Chelsea Clinton’s 2010 nupitals. His firm’s website boasts that he produced “State Dinners hosted by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.”
Rafanelli’s business partner, Mark Walsh, is deputy chief of the State Department’s Office of Protocol, which reimburses the White House executive residence for the events.
But I’m sure that there was absolutely nothing wrong with a government official paying his business partner to plan lavish dinners.