Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will now use her own reelection campaign funds to visit her ailing father in Florida, following weeks of scrutiny over her decision to charter a private plane paid for by a nonprofit fund and shared by wealthy Detroit-area business families.
In mid-March, Whitmer flew on a private jet out to Florida to take care of her elderly father for three days. Her office said in a letter to House Oversight Committee Chair Steve Johnson (R-Wayland) on Thursday that she chose to fly private rather than commercial for security reasons.
Over the past year, Whitmer has faced death threats, armed right-wing protests and a foiled plot to kidnap and kill her over her COVID-19 orders.
Whitmer’s two daughters accompanied the Democratic governor on the return flight, having stayed with their grandfather to take care of him for several weeks, the Associated Press reports. A security detail also accompanied Whitmer. The governor’s office said that Whitmer will reimburse her campaign for the cost of the travel, including the cost of three first-class commercial airline tickets.
“We did this to set the record straight and provide answers to Rep. Johnson’s questions,” said Whitmer campaign spokesman Mark Fisk.
The private jet in question is registered to Air Eagle. The Detroit-based PVS Chemicals supplied the flight, and was contacted by Whitmer’s office on March 8 about a potential trip using the plane. Whitmer’s trip lasted from March 12 to March 15.
Republicans had raised concerns about the trip since it was disclosed, which was about a month after Whitmer came back from Florida. Johnson had asked questions about the Air Eagle flight, who paid for the flight, transparency issues and potential hypocrisy regarding Whitmer’s own COVID-19 restrictions.
In response, Whitmer has noted that no travel restrictions were in place at the time, she flew out before the latest surge of COVID-19 and visitation rules for residential care facilities were eased 10 days prior.