Advance Notice: Briefs

Whitmer inaugural nonprofit paid for flight to visit father in Florida

By: - May 17, 2021 7:51 am

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gives an update on COVID-19 | Gov. Whitmer office photo

Michigan Transition 2019, a political nonprofit for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s inauguration, paid for her March private flight to Florida, according to Whitmer Chief of Staff JoAnne Huls.

Whitmer has said she was visiting her ill father from March 12 to 15. Whitmer personally paid $855 for her seat and the flight cost $27,521, according to a disclosure from the group. Huls said Whitmer took a private flight “due to ongoing security and public health concerns.”

Michigan Transition 2019 is a 501(c)(4) organization. Huls said the group “defrays the cost of the Governor’s travel when it’s consistent with the account’s purposes and not covered by taxpayers.”

Republicans have repeatedly criticized the governor’s trip during the pandemic and the lack of transparency around it.

Whitmer did not disclose the trip until media reports came out last month about it. She told the Associated Press she does not discuss travel plans because of the “incredible amount” of death threats she receives. In October, state and federal law enforcement disclosed a plot of a dozen men from a self-described militia to allegedly kidnap and kill her over her COVID-19 restrictions.

Huls acknowledged missteps in handling the trip’s disclosure in a memo to senior staff obtained by the AP.

“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,” she wrote.

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Susan J. Demas

Susan J. Demas is a 21-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 4,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 70 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.