People here say it would take some extravagant living to rack up a $5,000 bill overnight, as Vice President Dan Quayle's entourage reportedly did during a golfing junket.
"They must have had French wine or something," said Helen Fincher, director of the Augusta-Richmond County Convention & Visitors Bureau.CBS reported Wednesday that Quayle and Transportation Secretary Samuel Skinner traveled to Augusta aboard an Air Force jet last Friday to play golf at the exclusive Augusta National Golf Club, which hosts the Masters Tournament. They returned to Washington on Saturday.
The network said the trip cost taxpayers $27,000 - $12,000 for flying time, $10,000 for Secret Service and military travel expenses, and $5,000 for meals and lodging for the agents and five-man flight crew.
David Beckwith, the vice president's spokesman, would not say how many people made the trip or how much it cost.
"What CBS had was a blind estimate, nothing more. It was a guess," he said. "I don't have any cost estimates."
The jet seats 12, plus the flight crew. If the maximum of 10 aides and agents were on board - plus the five crewmembers - the daily expenses for each would be about $333.
The interest in use of government aircraft stems from disclosures that White House chief of staff John Sununu traveled extensively on military aircraft for political and personal use. The White House is reviewing records of Sununu's trips.
Quayle, like President Bush, uses military aircraft for all personal, political and official travel, due to security and communications requirements, White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said.
Located on the Georgia-South Carolina border, Augusta is known as "The Garden City of the South." It has a population of about 208,000.
Hotel rooms range from about $25 a night at the Econo Lodge to $300 for a suite at the historic Partridge Inn. Cottages at Augusta National are expensive, but the club would not disclose its rates.
"It sounds like they may have stayed at Augusta National," Fincher said. "If they'd played golf, that would have been some money. None of us know where they were or what they did. It was very hush-hush. They really got in and out very quietly."