Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens is trying to avoid using the state’s plane, a move that could save taxpayers thousands of dollars a year.
But because he’s instead relying on private and campaign funds to pay for travel around the country, Democrats are sounding the alarm that the governor may be trying to avoid disclosing exactly who is picking up the tab.
And coupled with his continued refusal to disclose details of how much corporations and lobbyists paid to bankroll his inaugural festivities last month, critics complain the governor is showing a disregard for open government and transparency.
State Rep. Greg Razer, a Kansas City Democrat, sent a letter to Greitens’ chief of staff this week requesting any information on flights taken by the governor for official state purposes.
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Since taking office last month, Greitens has traveled all over the state on private planes, as well as taking two trips to Washington, D.C.
This weekend he’ll travel to Las Vegas to speak at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual leadership meeting and to Springfield for the Missouri GOP’s annual Lincoln Days event. Then he’ll travel back to Washington, D.C., to attend conferences of the National Governors Association and Republican Governors Association.
A spokesman for his campaign told The Associated Press the cost of the private plane Greitens will use for his weekend travel will be paid by several private and political entities.
Travel paid for by the campaign will show up on his quarterly disclosure forms filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission. It’s still unclear whether he is required to disclose details of travel paid for with private funds.
Razer noted in his letter that the legislature passed a bill in 2013 requiring full disclosure of travel on state aircraft. The bill was sponsored at the time by Caleb Jones, a Columbia Republican who now serves as Greitens’ deputy chief of staff.
But Razer said the law likely doesn’t apply to travel on private aircraft.
“It is my hope,” he wrote, “that the legislative intent was to create a tool for taxpayers to effectively access information regarding official gubernatorial travel, and not create a loophole for the governor to shield the identity of third parties paying for such travel expenses.”
Greitens’ predecessor, Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon, primarily used the state plane owned by the Missouri Highway Patrol when he traveled for official state business. It costs $1,130 per flight hour to operate the plane, plus $120 an hour for the two pilots.
Former Republican Gov. Matt Blunt used a private plane on official business and paid for it with campaign funds.
A spokesman for Greitens’ office and his campaign did not respond to requests for comment by The Star.
Greitens has previously faced criticism over his refusal to disclose the details of his inauguration fundraising. A collection of corporations, wealthy donors and lobbyists donated to Greitens’ inaugural celebration, including many with business currently before the legislature. But because he used a nonprofit to raise the money, Greitens isn’t required to disclose how much those donors gave or how much he spent.
Democrats responded by reviving a 15-year-old bill originally sponsored by one of the governor’s top advisers that would require future governors to publicly disclose donations for gubernatorial inauguration activities.