Legal questions arise as nonprofit group that funded Gov. Whitmer’s flight to Florida revealed

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s chief of staff confirmed on Friday that she used funds from an inauguration-related nonprofit organization to pay for a trip in March to allegedly visit her ill father in Florida.

The flight reportedly cost $27,521 but Whitmer claimed on Wednesday that she did not use taxpayer funds for the trip during Spring Break and that it wasn’t a “gift.” She would not clarify further on the issue. Whitmer asserts that she paid for her own seat which cost $855. She departed on March 12 and returned to Lansing, on Monday, March 15.

“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, who is the governor’s chief of staff, wrote in a memo, according to The Detroit News. “The governor’s flight was not a gift, not paid for at taxpayer expense, and was done in compliance with the law.”

Fox News contributor Joe Concha alleged that Whitmer’s father was seen just days after that trip back in Lansing, Michigan going to a store and then getting into a Tesla to drive off. He also said that Whitmer has traveled to Florida three times in the last six months. On Monday, Whitmer reportedly took her father to Ann Arbor, where he underwent a medical procedure to begin intravenous antibiotics.

(Video Credit: WXYZ-TV Detroit | Channel 7)

“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, falling on her sword in the memo.

The private flight was reportedly chartered by the governor’s office due to security concerns amid the pandemic. Money from the Michigan Transition 2019 fund, which is a nonprofit originally formed for her inauguration was reportedly used.

Donors include many large lobbying firms and special-interest groups. The fund ostensibly “defrays the cost of the governor’s travel when it’s consistent with the account’s purposes,” Huls declared. A 2019 tax filing stated that the fund’s mission is “civic action and social welfare.”

The Gulfstream 280 private business jet that Whitmer flew on is reportedly used by several wealthy Michigan families. The Moroun family of the trucking company Central Transport, the Nicholson family of PVS Chemicals, and the Cotton family, which formerly ran Meridian Health, are among the wealthy families who use the Gulfstream G280 that is flown by Air Eagle LLC.

Executive Director Tori Sachs for the conservative Michigan Rising Action group is calling for an investigation into Whitmer’s use of the non-profit for personal travel.

“501c4’s are governed by IRS and there is no legal theory where reimbursing $800 for a $27K flight solves anything,” Sachs tweeted on Friday. “Whitmer’s personal use of her 501c4 account funds must be investigated.”

A Republican National Committee spokesperson commented in a statement released on Friday: “Gretchen Whitmer’s web of half-truths and side-stepped questions is coming undone and it’s clear that Michiganders need answers. What else is Gretchen Whitmer hiding?”

Ted Goodman, who is the spokesman for the Michigan Republican Party, claimed there was a reason Whitmer released the news on a Friday night: “Tonight’s revelations raise additional questions and concerns surrounding the financial arrangements of Gov. Whitmer’s secret, unvaccinated trip to Florida on a private jet,” he said.

(Video Credit: Fox Business)

The governor at the time was unvaccinated. She took the trip while warning Michiganders about traveling to Florida because of an increase in COVID-19-related cases during Spring Break.

Federal tax law prohibits nonprofits from the practice of inurement, which is defined as the use of nonprofit income or assets to excessively benefit an individual who is connected to the tax-exempt organization.

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