Obama administration scores sweet foreign swag
One of the perks of the presidency? Cuff links. And silk Italian ties. One of the perks of being married to the president? Christian Dior handbags.
One catch: You can't keep any of it.
President and Michelle Obama, Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and dozens of other administration officials, military leaders and lawmakers received hundreds of gifts from foreign dignitaries in 2009, according to a 52-page inventory released Tuesday by the State Department.
Saudi King Abdullah was by far the most generous, giving almost $190,000 in gifts to the Obama Family, including a a ruby and diamond jewelry set for the first lady valued at $132,000, the most valuable item on the list. (See other highlights in the chart below.)
In addition to cuff links, ties, and jewelery, the Obamas also scored DVDs, framed portraits, vases, scarfs and Belstaff jackets.
Biden received a 40-piece handmade serving set from Lebanon valued at $350 and carpets from Pakistani President Ali Zardari and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Prince Albert of Monaco gave Clinton a 24-karat gold commemorative coin of his expedition to Antarctica valued at $500 while French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner presented her with a $750 Hermes silk scarf.
Among several gifts for Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates were a $900 rifle from Jordan's King Abdullah and a shotgun and five bullets valued at $985 from Egypt's defense minister.
During Obama's visit to Saudi Arabia in June 2009, the Saudi king also presented several gifts to members of the West Wing staff. According to the document, he gave a combined $107,200 in gifts to senior officials, including former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, senior advisers David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett, press secretary Robert Gibbs and speechwriter Jon Favreau.
By law, however, government officials must surrender any gifts valued at more than $350 to the government and may keep less expensive ones if they pay the stated value. Most items end up at the National Archives or General Services Administration. Perishable items gifted to the Obamas are handled by the U.S. Secret Service.
The State Department's list describes each item, its estimated value, the date of acceptance and the donor. In virtually every circumstance, the gift was accepted, because "non-acceptance would cause embarrassment" to the donor and the U.S. government. The government released a similar list in June 2009 that detailed gifts received during the final year of George W. Bush's presidency.
Some of the sweetest swag received by the First Family is listed below:
|Gift Recipient||Gift, Date of Acceptance, Value||Identity of Foreign Donor and Government||Justification for Acceptance|
|President Obama||Mikimoto desk clock; black basketball jersey. Received Feb. 24, 2009. Est. Value: $1,495.00.||Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso||Non-acceptance would cause embarrassment to the donor and U.S. government.|
|President Obama||Four boxes of dates and 12 bottles of wine. Received March 5, 2009. Est. Value: $500.00.||Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika||Non-acceptance would cause embarrassment to donor and U.S. government.|
|President Obama||Gold medal created by the Czech mint featuring an image of President Obama. Received April 4, 2009. Est. Value: $1,460.00.||Petr Tulpa, Mayor of Jablonec Nad Nisou, Czech Republic||Non-acceptance would cause embarrassment to donor and U.S. government.|
|President Obama||Twelve silk ties. Received: June 15, 2009. Est. Value: $1,680.00.||Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi||Non-acceptance would cause embarrassment to donor and U.S. government.|
|President Obama||50″ x 62″ rug with an image of President Obama. Received: Nov. 17, 2009. Est. Value: $1,200.00.||Gadzhi Makhachev, head of Dagestan's Avar ethnic group, member of the Russian Duma||Non-acceptance would cause embarrassment to donor and U.S. government.|
|President Obama||Porcelain sculpture of five oxen. Received Oct. 22, 2009. Estimated value: $1,200.00.||Chinese President Hu Jintao||Non-acceptance would cause embarrassment to donor and U.S. government.|
|President and Michelle Obama||One framed photograph of Queen Elizabeth II; one framed photograph of Prince Phillip. Received: April 1, 2009. Estimated value: $775.00.||Queen Elizabeth II||Non-acceptance would cause embarrassment to donor and U.S. government.|
|President and Michelle Obama||Two men's Belstaff jackets; one women's Belstaff jacket. Received: July 6, 2009. Est. Value: $3,071.00.||Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi||Non-acceptance would cause embarrassment to donor and U.S. government.|
|Michelle Obama||Black Christian Dior handbag. Received: June 19, 2009. Estimated value: $4,500.00.||French first lady Carla Sarkozy||Non-acceptance would cause embarrassment to donor and U.S. government.|
|Michelle Obama||Painting of St. Michael the Archangel; set of six DVDs; one book. Received: Nov. 17, 2009. Est. value: $2,575.00.||Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew||Non-acceptance would cause embarrassment to donor and U.S. government.|
|The Obama family||Limited edition copy of ''Beowulf''; painting entitled ''Bogland'' by Mark Dwyer; four books; limited edition Waterford crystal bowl. Received: March 17, 2009. Estimated value: $3,281.00.||Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Brian Cowen||Non-acceptance would cause embarrassment to donor and U.S. government.|
| January 19, 2011; 3:40 PM ET
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