Arkansas Republican Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders took her whole family to Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas, Nevada earlier this month — one of the most expensive sporting events of all time. And now the GOP darling is being cagey about how she managed to snag luxury VIP box seats and get exclusive access to some of the biggest stars at the game.
Talking Points Memo (TPM) did a deep dive to estimate how much Sanders' Super Bowl trip would have cost, when accounting for suite passes for herself, her husband, and her three children combined with other perks, like field-level access to Usher's halftime show and access to Chiefs star tight end (and Taylor Swift's boyfriend) Travis Kelce. Ken Solky — a highly regarded ticket broker in Las Vegas — estimated that the face value of tickets for a high-level box like the kind in which Sanders was seen partying on Instagram was in the neighborhood of $37,500 per person.
"It definitely looks like a suite," Solky told TPM when viewing the images Sanders posted. "[N]ot just a suite but a pretty damn good suite."
Each additional pass the Sanders family had to access special events came with a price tag of anywhere between $3,000 and $10,000 per person. TPM estimated that on the low end, Sanders' excursion cost more than $202,000. It's unlikely that she paid for the trip out of her own pocket, as that amount is far above her gubernatorial salary of $160,000, and more than her $165,000 annual salary as former President Donald Trump's White House press secretary. But whether she was gifted the passes or used taxpayer resources is still shrouded in mystery.
The Arkansas governor's 2023 ethics disclosure form — in which Arkansas public officials have to disclose any gift of more than $100 — didn't disclose that she received any six-figure gifts. And expenses relating to her travel and security are exempted from the state's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) guidelines, after Sanders convened a special legislative session last year specifically to change FOIA laws. That special session was notably convened in the wake of public reporting surrounding her office's purchase of a $19,000 lectern.
One big clue TPM found was a photo of Sanders in a VIP box with Tavia Hunt — a prominent GOP donor who is also the wife of Kansas City Chiefs co-owner Clark Hunt — which would been among the most expensive seats at Allegiant Stadium. Such gifts would necessitate reporting as it could be constituted as an out-of-state special interest attempting to curry favor with Arkansas' governor.
"If you’re in a luxury suite, it would be the highest face price ticket to the event," Graham Sloan, the director of the Arkansas Ethics Commission, told TPM.