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iPod, putting gear, $52,695 mask included in Obama's foreign gifts

April 26, 2013|By Morgan Little
  • President Obama and the first family received $243,970.96 in gifts in 2011, according to a newly-released report.
President Obama and the first family received $243,970.96 in gifts in 2011,… (Nicholas Kamm / AFP/Getty…)

WASHINGTON – So what do you give to the leader of the free world?

If you’re German Chancellor Angela Merkel, you might hint that Obama could work on his putting. Merkel presented an estimated $1,400 in putting gear, including a pair of Kramski putters (complete with head covers) and the book “The Kramski Putt Philosophy.”

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper appealed to Obama’s other favorite sport with a basketball signed by the 2010-2011 Toronto Raptors, a team that finished the season with a 22-60 record — including a 1-3 record against Obama’s Chicago Bulls.

The biggest spenders were Sergio Cabral, governor of Rio de Janeiro state in Brazil, who gave the president a photograph by artist Vik Muniz (inspired by the famous painting “Death of Marat”) worth an estimated $40,000; and Gabonese President Ali Bongo, who gave Obama a $52,695 Daum blue mask sculpture. The photo is now on loan for an exhibition, and the sculpture is in the hands of the National Archives.

PHOTOS: President Obama’s past

The gifts were revealed Friday in the State Department’s list of items given to various federal agencies by foreign governments, including numerous gifts given to President Obama. The list contains gifts given in 2011.

Though Obama doesn’t keep the vast majority of his gifts, the White House says he accepts them because “non-acceptance would cause embarrassment to donor and U.S. government.”

Neither Obama nor members of Congress and their spouses are allowed to keep gifts from members of foreign governments that exceed a loosely defined “minimal value.” Items received are often handed over to the National Archives and Records Administration, which also manages presidential libraries.

Several less exotic gifts included an iPod from Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and a gift box of the video game “The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings” from Polish Prime Minister Donald Franciszek Tusk.

DOCUMENT: President Obama’s foreign gifts

The only gift Obama retained was a copy of the book “Ghengis Khan and the Making of the Modern World,” presented to him by Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj. The register doesn’t list a value for the book, but it’s available on Amazon for $11.53.

First Lady Michelle Obama wasn’t left out, with foreign dignitaries handing over an estimated $22,343.59 in gifts, including Indonesian pillow cases and two table lamps from France worth about $5,500.

The first family received $243,970.96 worth of gifts, the bulk of which, $194,125.33, went to the president. Gifts worth $21,438.78 were for the first couple and gifts worth $6,063.26 were given to Obama’s daughters, Sasha and Malia.

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morgan.little@latimes.com

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