Headlines this week in major media outlets this week are musing if Queen Elizabeth might have been 'trolling' President Trump by wearing the American State Visit Brooch gifted to her on a visit by President and First Lady Obama some years back.

My question is: Was this actually a personal gift from the Obamas, paid for by them, or was it a gift from the American people, paid for from federal tax revenues, merely presented to Her Majesty by the Obamas?

I ask because, to my mind, it would be entirely expected that Her Majesty would wear a gift from the American people when the President of the American people visits; even when it might be a different person than that who originally delivered the gift.

If on the other hand it was a gift personally paid for by President and First Lady Obama, that sends an entirely different signal to President Trump.

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    This says the Obamas paid for it themselves. And it makes sense, because the brooch is so simple. But I don't know how reliable a source that website is.
    – Spencer
    Jul 18, 2018 at 1:57
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    @Spencer: I have doubts about that source, as it's claim that President Trump showed up late seems to be belied by his schedule indicating a 5:00 pm arrival (according to another source I read over the weekend) for which his car pulled up at 4:59. The profanity raises question in my mid also. Jul 18, 2018 at 2:00
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    If the brooch really was a gift from the Obamas during their 2011 State Visit, then it does seem to have been a personal gift. The official gift on that visit was apparantly "a leather-bound album containing rare memorabilia and photographs in chronicling King George VI and Queen Elizabeth's visit to the United States in 1939" Jul 18, 2018 at 9:16
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    Read that thread on twitter over the weekend. A lot of the logic seems like a bit of a stretch to make a point, but it was still kind of fun to learn about. FWIW, Madeline Albright has since her UN days done roughly the same thing with her brooches, but not being royalty, she's free to talk about what point she's making with them. The link is worth a read, as its at least possible her explanations of what she's found they do for her diplomatically jibe with the queen's thinking as well.
    – T.E.D.
    Jul 18, 2018 at 13:53
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    It would be unfortunate if she was being undiplomatic, which I find hard to credit given her usually strict adherence to the rules of etiquette. It also makes little sense given the number of dictators and the like she has entertained over the years.
    – Daniel
    Jul 24, 2018 at 3:10

1 Answer 1


Yeah, that gift while arguable from the American People, was paid for by President Obama.

I'm glad the Queen liked the Broach the Obama's got her from a small shop here in D.C., better than the ipod filled with President Obama's speeches gifted to her by the first family on the occasion of her 90th birthday in 2016. Before you turn your nose up at that, don't forget Gordon Brown the then British PM got a 25 set gift pack of Movie Theme CD's from the Obama's in 2009, which I believe I saw at Costco around the same time. And that's the Gifts given to the leaders of Britain arguable America's strongest most reliable ally!!!

Six US Presidents who were were Deep in Debt
President's do get a 50,000 expense allowance as well as a 100,000 travel allowance over and above their 400,000 salary. They also live rent free at the Whitehouse, travel free on Air force One, and Pay no costs for their own security..

Seriously though, Presidential Gifts and entertaining, come out of the President's own pocket. (State dinners can be paid for with Federal Funds, or sometimes private funds like the President's political party.) The President receives an itemized list of every meal served at the whitehouse eaten by himself, his family, or his visitors. It's one reason many American Presidents leave office in debt(except really wealthy presidents like Kennedy, maybe Trump, President Obama made money in the whitehouse on book deals). U.S. Presidential gifts are thus generally inexpensive compared to some of the gifts the President receives. The Obama's were not the exception to the rule, they basically were following the rules. Before you feel sorry for American Presidents, the debt for modern Presidents as you can imagine is temporary. As Former Presidents do extremely well financially with speaking and book fees. Sitting on the board of directors of large companies. Also they can draw salaries from libraries and charity foundations they work with not to mention the permanent salary and expense account they receive for the rest of their lives from the American People.

It's an odd sort of duality all gifts accepted by an American President are accepted on behalf of the American People. Any gift with a worth greater than $50 per event or $390 annually must be declared, and eventually turned over to the Government or in some cases may be paid for and kept. (Amy Carter's gifted baby elephant ended up in the zoo). But when the President gives gifts or entertains personally at the Whitehouse, that's all on his dime.

This is especially odd because if you wanted to give an American Politician 100 million dollars cash anonymously, that would be perfectly legal with a few accounting indirections, as long as you ran it through his parties political action groups.

Remember Hillary Clinton's claim about being broke when leaving he White house. Politifacts calls that claim false, not because they didn't owe more than their assets, but only because of the huge expected income awarded to former Presidents.

Hillary Clinton Says She and Bill were "Dead Broke" on leaving the Whitehouse
"Almost any president leaving office can expect tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars of future earnings as a result of their having been president," Hoopes said. "Speaking, consulting, board positions, and so on, are all very lucrative."


White House Living is not a Total Free Ride
Former first lady Laura Bush wrote in her post-White House memoir that she was expected to pick up the tab for every meal she ate at the White House or the presidential Camp David retreat -- for her husband's two terms. "The presidential room, as it were, is covered, but not the board," she wrote in her book, "Spoken from the Heart." While first families aren't responsible for utility bills or a mortgage, "it is more than fair that they pay for personal items like every American household."


Short Story dealing with President's poor salaries
In 1930 the country was mired down in the Great Depression and Babe Ruth signed an $80,000 annual contract with the Yankees. At the time the sports reporters noted that President Hoover was only making $75,000. Babe Ruth responded, Yeah but I had a better year than Hoover did.


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    I'm not sure you can argue that the brooch was a gift from the American people. That would have been the official gift (see the link in my comment above). Although I can't find any official, or semi-official, site that explicitly states that it was a personal gift, its glaring absence from the lists of official gifts strongly suggests that it was. Sadly, I don't think the Queen's official 'gift-list' for 2011 is available online. Jul 18, 2018 at 18:10
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    @sempaiscuba The United States President is a representative of the American People. He is paid and given access to huge resources to help him better represent the American People. In everything he does in his term in office he represents the American People. He visited Britain representing the US People, He attended the dinner representing the US people, and he exchanged gifts with British leaders, representing US people. Only he paid for his gift and the US people kept the one the British gave him. You might think that's a nuanced argument, but historically it's the norm.
    – user27618
    Jul 18, 2018 at 18:18
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    Yes, that is true of the official gifts, which were listed on the statement from The Palace. But the US President is also a citizen, and as such a personal gift would be given, not from the President, but by that citizen (who also happens to be the President). It is, indeed, nuanced, but this is hardly the first personal gift from a US President. I believe that the distinction between official and personal gifts received by US representatives is actually explicitly recognised in the US Code. Jul 18, 2018 at 18:25
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    One example of a personal gift from a sitting US President that springs to mind (from some recent research I carried out on another project) was Gerald Ford's gift of golf-balls to President Suharto of Indonesia. Jul 18, 2018 at 18:28
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    This is almost entirely accurate. However, FWIW there's currently technically a 2-PAC hop required to give money anonymously to US politicians. The first PAC can take anonymous $, but can't give to politicians, the second PAC can give to politicians, and is required to report the first PAC as the giver. Its pretty clearly a legal loophole, but one poltiticans aren't rushing to close, for obvious$ rea$on$.
    – T.E.D.
    Jul 18, 2018 at 18:58

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