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Michigan’s GOP-led Legislature is trying to hold Gov. Gretchen Whitmer accountable, and she’s none too pleased about it.
At issue is the governor’s controversial decision two months ago to fly to Florida to visit her father without elaborating on the details. While she was gone, there was nobody in Michigan at the helm, state Republicans have argued.
“What happens if the governor has left, decides not to tell anybody and we have a real emergency arise? We just need to know who is fulfilling the role of governor of the state at any given time,” state Sen. Tom Barrett said Wednesday to The Detroit News.
And so with this question in mind, Barrett has sponsored a new proposal, S.B. 458, that would force the governor to “notify” the state’s top legislative leaders “when the governor leaves this state and when the governor returns to this state for any purpose.”
The list of leaders includes the state Senate majority leader, the state Senate minority leader, the state House speaker and the state House minority leader.
The notification would have to be in writing, list the “expected duration” of the trip and, most importantly, “[i]dentify the individual that will assume the powers and duties of the office of the governor in accordance with section 26 of article V of the state constitution of 1963.”
View the proposal below, or access it here:
While it’s perfectly normal for governors to take trips, the problem is Whitmer took her trip apparently without letting anybody know. Not till mid-April was the trip discovered. This isn’t normal, though the governor purports to have a valid excuse for this discrepancy.
“Whitmer traveled to Florida in March to visit her father, but refused to release details of the trip for weeks. The governor’s staff had cited ongoing security concerns; in the fall, state and federal officials arrested a group of men accused of plotting to kidnap the governor,” according to the Detroit Free Press.
In a statement, the governor’s press secretary, Bobby Leddy, blasted Barrett’s proposed legislation as a political potshot.
“It would behoove the Legislature to read the Michigan Constitution, which clearly outlines a process to ensure that there is always an acting governor available to continue the functions of the state in case of an emergency,” he said.
“If the Legislature wants to waste their time playing games, that’s their own decision, but Gov. Whitmer is going to remain focused on ending this pandemic and putting Michigan back to work,” he added.
Another issue, though unrelated to the proposed legislation, is how exactly the trip was funded.
“Late last week, Whitmer chief of staff JoAnne Huls said a nonprofit corporation initially created to pay for Whitmer’s inauguration spent $27,521 for the entire flight. Whitmer used her own money to pay $855 for her seat, spokeswoman Tiffany Brown said,” the Free Press reported Wednesday.
“However, Federal Aviation Administration records indicate the company that owns the plane she used does not have the authority to provide charter flights. Instead, it operates under a broader set of federal regulations that have fewer safety and training regulations,” its report continued.
The governor’s reportedly now facing an IRS complaint from the conservative group Michigan Rising Action over this particular matter.
We have formally filed a complaint with the IRS for the misuse of 501(c)(4) funds to pay for @GovWhitmer‘s private flight to Florida. We will make sure Governor Whitmer is held accountable for her hypocrisy and her litany of ethical and legal violations.https://t.co/ZiCx7ONYOZ
— Michigan Rising Action (@MIRisingAction) May 19, 2021
“Michigan Rising Action alleges that Governor Whitmer’s travel on a private charter flight paid for by a 501(c)(4) is not within the exempt purpose of the organization and was a ‘private benefit’ to the Governor. This appears to be a direct violation of Internal Revenue Code, and is the subject of the investigation request,” the group announced in a press release Wednesday.
“Governor Whitmer’s use of 501(c)(4) funds for personal benefit is a clear violation of the law and we’ve asked the IRS to launch a full investigation into the matter,” the group’s executive director, Eric Ventimiglia, said in a statement.
“From her blatant hypocrisy to the litany of ethical and legal violations, Governor Whitmer has spent the last two months misleading the people of Michigan about her trip to Florida. It’s time for her to be held accountable,” he added.
The governor has also pushed back on this allegation as well.
“This flight was not a gift. This flight was not paid for at taxpayer expense. And … I don’t know that there’s anything more to add. When a family member of mine needs a little help though, I’m going to show up, just like when we have a crisis here, we’re going to work 24/7 to keep the people of the state safe,” she reportedly said in a statement.
Ever since the pandemic erupted in early 2020, Whitmer’s administration has been rocked by endless scandals such as these.
Regarding the scandal surrounding her leaving the state without notice, Michigan Rising Action notes that she did so despite having at the time “strongly cautioned Michiganders against traveling to Florida for Spring Break.”
“She then defied another guidance issued by her own administration by returning to Michigan and failing to quarantine herself,” the group noted in its press release.
Hypocrisy has also been another staple of the Democrat governor’s tenure.
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