The Michigan Republican Party filed a complaint with Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) used campaign funds to finance a “personal” trip to Florida aboard a private jet.
Whitmer’s secret March trip to visit her father — and subsequent acknowledgment in April — touched off a cascade of half-answers, which ultimately led to a 501(c)(4) designed to pay for her inauguration.
The governor’s claims created trouble for the company that owned the plane after her office said she “chartered” it from Air Eagle, LLC, which was not authorized by the FAA to make “charter” trips.
In order to stave off potential legal jeopardy for Air Eagle, LLC, Whitmer’s team opted to have her campaign committee finance the trip, valued at $27,521. 501(c)(4) organizations are regulated by the IRS, while Michigan campaign committees are overseen by the Michigan secretary of state.
In a Monday call with reporters, party Executive Director Jason Cabel Roe laid out the complaint filed last week.
“This is 100 percent a trip that was for the governor’s personal benefit,” Roe said, Bridge reported. “There was no campaign activity involved in any way, shape or form, and there is no justification.”
The complaint alleged Whitmer violated the Michigan Campaign Finance Act (MCFA) after weeks of insisting it was a “personal” trip to visit her ailing father, one of the corporations owning the plane, PVS Chemicals or the campaign committee would pay for her flight.
“While it has been evolving for days now, the Whitmer team’s most recent position is that the luxury jet costs will either be paid for by the corporation or Gretchen Whitmer for Governor (“Campaign”),” the complaint said.
“Regardless of which entity pays for the trip, a clear violation of the MCFA has occurred that should immediately be investigated and penalized to deter future continued illegal activity by Respondents.”
The complaint zeroed on Whitmer’s claim that the private jet was necessary for security, and that the expenditure was allowable because a campaign committee can pay for “necessary security expenses.”
“When the Secretary of State approved the use of campaign funds for ‘necessary security expenses,’ she considered items such as home security systems or ballistic vests, not private jets,” the complaint argued.
The complaint also disputed Whitmer’s attempt to justify the expense by reimbursing $855 for the cost of her seat.
“Governor Whitmer’s after-the-fact payment of first-class airfare to the Campaign, totaling $855 thus far (or roughly three percent of the total amount of the cost of the private jet), has no legal relevance and does not in any way cure her clear violation of Michigan law,” it said.
“The Governor’s 3% payment for the flight, while a clever superficial attempt to alleviate the horrible optics surrounding this trip, does not cure any violation of Michigan campaign finance law,” the complaint said.
The complaint asked Benson — Whitmer’s political ally — to “immediately investigate this conduct and penalize all responsible parties to the fullest extent of the law.”