LANSING – A Michigan chemical company that arranged for Governor Gretchen Whitmer to fly his private jet to Florida is under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration, leading to a change in how the flight will be paid, Whitmer’s campaign said. announced on Thursday.
Whitmer’s reelection campaign will pay Detroit-based PVS Chemicals for the $27,521 cost of the flight to visit Whitmer’s father, not a nonprofit that controls Whitmer, as previously announced, Whitmer campaign attorney Christopher Trebilcock said in a letter obtained by the Free Press.
Trebilcock made the new disclosures in a letter to State Representative Steve Johnson, R-Wayland, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, who sent the governor a list of questions about the trip in March.
Other new details announced on Thursday include:
- Whitmer flew to Florida with her Michigan State Police security detail, but flew back with both her security detail and her two daughters, who had already been in Florida to visit their grandfather when Whitmer arrived on March 12. The size of the security detail was not specified.
- Whitmer, who previously said she would pay the estimated cost of her own chair of $855 from her personal funds, now plans to pay similar amounts for each of her two daughters’ chairs, according to the letter.
- On or about March 8, an aide to Whitmer contacted PVS to ask if PVS had a plane that could fly her to Florida. Flight arrangements soon followed.
- Whitmer’s campaign will also pay for the $22,670 of a private plane Whitmer used to travel to President Joe Biden’s inauguration in January. That aircraft was operated by Solomon Plumbing Co. from Michigan, Trebilcock said.
Neither PVS Chemicals, a company whose co-chairman James B. Nicholson is a prominent donor to primarily Republican causes, nor Solomon Plumbing Co. has the type of FAA license that allows their private planes to operate charter flights, Trebilcock said in the letter.
More: FAA: Company that flew Whitmer to Florida is not authorized to operate charter flights
More: Government Whitmer reveals the cost of the trip to visit her father and how it was paid for
The Free Press first reported on May 17 that the FAA was investigating the Florida flight aboard an Air Eagle LLC aircraft in which PVS has a financial interest.
“We understand that PVS is still working with the FAA to answer its questions regarding these issues,” Trebilcock said in the letter to Johnson. “Once we are notified by PVS that the FAA has resolved its investigation, the Whitmer for Governor Candidate Committee will issue a check to PVS.”
David Nicholson, the PVS president, released a statement Thursday that read, in part, “Going forward, PVS will follow a new policy of refusing all requests to fly candidates or government officials.”
It is legal for the campaign to pay PVS for the flight, but paying for the nonprofit’s flight is not “compliant with FAA rules,” according to the Trebilcok letter.
“It is only because of media reports of these issues that PVS and Michigan Transition 2019 have learned that a miscommunication has occurred between them regarding the source of payment for the flight.”
Trebilcock said the private plane was needed for security reasons because of threats against Whitmer that resulted in state and federal charges in October. The expense is allowed under the Campaign Finance Act as a cost associated with holding office — or one Whitmer incurs solely because of the office she holds, he said.
Johnson said it appears Whitmer has broken the law twice regarding the FAA requirements — once for the trip to Florida and once for the trip to Washington, DC. that question.
He said he doesn’t believe Whitmer or any of the funds she manages would have paid for the trip to Florida had the matter not been thoroughly investigated.
“If the media hadn’t noticed and brought this to our attention…nothing would have happened,” Johnson said.
Whitmer’s revelation on May 14 that the flight was being paid for by a nonprofit that controls her had prompted a conservative group to file a complaint with the IRS, seeking an investigation into whether the governor was misusing nonprofit funds. used to cover personal expenses.
Whitmer has faced a barrage of criticism over the Florida plane trip. Much of it comes from Republicans who say it was wrong for Whitmer to travel to visit her elderly father when Michiganders were warned by her government to travel south and many Michigan residents were barred from visiting their elderly parents in nursing homes. There was also a lot of criticism for a lack of transparency about the trip and how it was paid for and the disclosure of information in bits and pieces by Whitmer’s office.
“Today, the Whitmer for Governor campaign delivered a letter to Rep. Steve Johnson answering its questions in a detailed, substantive and good faith manner,” said campaign spokesman Mark Fisk.
“We did this to set the record straight and provide answers to Rep. Johnson’s questions. The Governor has provided steady leadership throughout the pandemic, and we have had one of the fastest vaccine rollouts in the country despite extraordinary challenges. Thanks to Governor Whitmer’s decisive action has allowed us to bring the pandemic under control, reopen our state and get people back to work.”
Tori Sachs, executive director of the conservative Michigan Freedom Fund, said it appears Whitmer wants to replace a federal investigation that could have real implications with a potential campaign finance violation, which would likely be “a slap on the wrist.” by Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.
“How many other private flights has Whitmer taken and who paid for them?” asked Sachs.