A Michigan taxpayer group filed a campaign finance complaint against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) Monday after she admitted using campaign resources to pay for a secret personal private jet trip to Florida.
Michigan Rising Action filed a 16-page complaint with Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) thoroughly laying out the arguments for why Whitmer’s $27,521 payment to a company that owns the private jet she used to fly to Palm Beach, Florida, to visit her father in March was illegal, at a time when she was lecturing Michiganders not to travel to the state over coronavirus fears.
The trip occurred in March, was disclosed in April, and was finally paid for on the day campaign committee books closed, July 20.
Michigan campaign finance law allows an elected official to use campaign donations for “incidental” travel while carrying out official duties. Michigan Rising Action argued because Whitmer’s repeated excuse for the trip was strictly “personal”, campaign resources cannot be used in that manner. For weeks, Whitmer dodged questions about the trip, posturing that it was unworthy of public discussion.
After the scandal first broke, Whitmer attempted to use a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization to pay for the jaunt, before determining that created potential legal issues for the plane’s owners. Nonprofits are also barred from paying personal expenses. Whitmer then attempted to justify it by reimbursing the company $1,710 for her seat and those of her daughters.
That action “represents an admission” Whitmer’s intent for the trip was personal, the complaint alleges.
Michigan Rising Action claimed Whitmer’s campaign committee violated the Michigan Campaign Finance Act twice:
- Section 21a – by illegally using candidate committee funds to finance a candidate’s personal expenses in the guise of an “incidental expense”.
- Section 33 – by knowingly filing an inaccurate statement or report.
The complaint notes the penalty for violating Section 33 is a circuit court has the authority to “prohibit that candidate from assuming the duties of a public office or from receiving compensation from public funds, or both.”
“This Complaint demonstrates greed in its purest form, and serves as yet another illustration of Respondent Whitmer’s ‘the rules apply for thee, but not to me’ attitude,” it concluded, and called on Benson, a Whitmer political ally, to investigate the alleged violations.
“Gov. Whitmer has tried to run from her secret flight to Florida for months, and her repeated attempts to cover-up her hypocrisy have only resulted in more scandal and legal trouble,” Michigan Rising Action Executive Director Eric Ventimiglia said in a statement.
“Whitmer’s latest attempt to pass this personal trip off as a campaign expense is a clear violation of Michigan’s campaign finance laws, and she must be held accountable once and for all for her repeated breach of ethics and the law,” Ventimiglia said.