Controversy surrounds Whitmer's secret Florida flight

click to enlarge Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. - State of Michigan
State of Michigan
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is once again under fire for a Florida trip she took months ago.

The trip was partially paid for by a 501(c)4 group, which critics say presents legal questions.

Whitmer used funds from an inauguration-related nonprofit to pay for a $27,521 trip to Florida to visit her ailing father in March, MIRS News reported. "She continued to carry out her duties as governor while she assisted her father [in Florida] with household duties like cooking and cleaning," JoAnne Huls, the governor's chief of staff, wrote in a memo. "The governor’s flight was not a gift, not paid for at taxpayer expense, and was done in compliance with the law."

Whitmer reportedly paid $855 out of pocket for her seat on the flight.

"As chief of staff, I acknowledge we could have done a better job of answering questions about this trip with more clarity while also balancing the need to protect the governor’s security, and for that I take responsibility," Huls said in the memo.

Whitmer’s office says it chartered a flight because of security concerns, using money from her inauguration nonprofit Michigan Transition 2019 fund. However, it’s unclear what security concerns could exist sharing details of a trip taken months prior.

On Monday, The Detroit Free Press reported the company hired to fly Whitmer wasn’t authorized to charter flights, a possible violation of Federal Aviation Administration rules.

Separately, Tori Sachs, the then-executive director for the conservative Michigan Rising Action, called for an investigation.

"Today's revelations that Whitmer's non-profit paid for her personal trip to Florida is shady and makes it clear why she tried to hide the trip and cover up who paid," Sachs said in a statement issued late Friday. "Either Whitmer's Florida trip was for a legitimate 501c4 purpose, in which case the c4 could pay for it, or it was personal, in which case a c4 can’t pay for it. Whitmer's personal use of her 501c4 account funds must be investigated."

Sachs on Monday announced her new position as the executive director of the conservative Michigan Freedom Fund. 

Whitmer defended her Florida trip to visit her ill father while not fully vaccinated, weeks before she warned Michiganders not to travel to Florida because of COVID-19 variants. Deadline Detroit reported she used Detroit businessmens' private jet.

“This flight was not a gift,” Whitmer said in a press conference last week. “This flight was not paid for at taxpayer expense.”

Whitmer left Friday, March 12, and returned Monday, March 15. Previously, her office had said the governor’s trip was “two full days or less.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns against travel for those not fully vaccinated.

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