The Corner

Politics & Policy

Is Governor Whitmer Facing a ‘French Laundry Moment’?

Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer speaks at a campaign event for Joe Biden in Detroit, Mich., October 31, 2020. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

California governor Gavin Newsom saw his poll numbers tumble and interest in a recall election skyrocket last November after he was photographed violating state lockdown guidelines by dining with lobbyists at the French Laundry, one of California’s most expensive restaurants.

Now it’s been revealed that Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer, who for months had lectured state residents to stay at home and not travel, had a nonprofit group tied to her administration pay to charter a jet so she could visit her father in Florida. Whitmer did pay $855 for her own seat, a small fraction of the minimum $2,500 an hour it takes to operate the Gulfstream.

The “social welfare” nonprofit Michigan Transition, which was formed in 2018 to help pay for the cost of Whitmer’s inauguration, paid for the charter. As the Detroit News notes: “Federal tax law prohibits nonprofits from excessively benefiting an individual who has close ties with the tax-exempt organization.”

Whitmer’s office declined to answer questions, merely saying only that “ongoing security and public health concerns” merited use of the private jet.

Even before these revelations, Whitmer was in political hot water. A new MIRS/Target poll finds her with less than majority support against two potential Republican challengers. She leads retiring Detroit police chief James Craig by 48 percent to 42 percent. Against businessman John James, who nearly won last year’s U.S. Senate race, she has a 49 percent to 39 percent lead. Both Craig and James are African-American and won about a third of the black vote in the survey.

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Illegal leaks of classified information should be treated as a serious offense. But they would be easier to prevent if less information were classified.