The Michigan House Oversight Committee sent a series of questions Thursday to Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) addressing her secret trip to Florida aboard a private jet in March.
The news broke in April that Whitmer went to Florida for “two days” to visit her “ailing” father as she urged Michiganders not to travel. Whitmer later acknowledged it was actually four days.
As questions swirled for weeks and answers were few, Whitmer’s office claimed a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, Michigan Transition 2019, paid for her “personal” trip, which a new IRS complaint alleges was a violation of its mission, the Detroit News reported.
Whitmer’s public justification for the trip has been solely family related, that is, she went to tend to her father, whom she claimed to be in ill health. While in Florida, she said she did “a lot of cooking and a lot of cleaning.”
Just days after the story broke, Whitmer’s father was spotted in Lansing shopping and driving his Tesla vehicle, according to Great Lakes News.
Christopher Trebilcock, an attorney for Michigan Transition 2019, argued the nonprofit can help pay for the governor’s travel when “it’s consistent with the account’s purpose.”
The IRS complaint filed by Michigan Rising Action said the Whitmer’s nonprofit’s purpose is “to operate for the promotion of civic action and social welfare by promoting the common good and general welfare of the residents of, and visitors to, the state of Michigan.”
It is not clear how Whitmer’s “personal” trip aligned with this exempt purpose. The complaint pointed out the entity was designed to finance aspects of Whitmer’s inauguration, but Whitmer is “not an officer, director, or employee of Michigan Transition 2019.”
On Thursday, state Rep. Steve Johnson (R) sent Whitmer a series of 43 questions to answer to determine whether the Oversight committee will hold a hearing on the festering scandal, including:
- When did you make the decision to go to Florida on the March 12-15 trip?
- When and how did you arrive at the decision to fly on a private plane, rather than a commercial or state-arranged flight?
- Did you seek out this private plane specifically?
- Did someone from Michigan Transition 2019 reach out to you and inform you of this flight?
- As Governor, have you ever traveled on an aircraft without paying the cost of a ticket?
- Did you participate in any fundraising activities while in Florida? If so, please elaborate.
- Who accompanied you on this trip?
Other questions involve transferring power to the lieutenant governor, as the Michigan Constitution calls for, the use of state resources, including security personnel, as well as cost details.
“Did her security detail travel with her or not – what was the cost to taxpayers of that? Just a number of questions that we’d like answers to,” Johnson told Michigan Radio.
“That is our first step, and depending on the administration’s answers or refusal to answer, the oversight committee will consider hearings after that.”