RICHMOND — Virginia State Police officers incurred $18,376.93 of expenses through August as Gov. Glenn Youngkin traveled out of state for unofficial business – but none of that was for trips to support Republican political candidates.
The expenses, for eight trips between March and August described as personal, covered Executive Protection Unit officers’ travel expenses, the Virginia State Police reported in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from the Richmond Times-Dispatch. The governor reimbursed the EPU expenses for his political trips when the officers incurred travel costs because of overnight stays.
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The listed expenses for security officers—reimbursed or not—do not include the officers’ salaries, State Police spokeswoman Corrine Geller said.
“The EPU goes with the governor whenever he travels; that’s just the cost of doing business,” she said.
She said governors in recent years have not reimbursed the State Police for EPU expenses when traveling on personal business.
Youngkin’s Political Action Committee repaid travel expenses the Executive Protection Unit incurred for his April trip to Texas, described as political, Geller said.
No expenses were incurred for a July trip to Nebraska to speak to the state Republican Party convention or for a trip to Michigan to campaign for the Republican candidate in that state’s gubernatorial race, because those were day trips and incurred none of the usual travel expenses, she said.
Asked about presidential ambitions, Youngkin has said that he has not made a decision, that he is focused on Virginia and that the media is more interested in the question than he is.
He says Democrats’ criticism about his out of state travel and political activity is simply partisan politics.
“I paid for and will continue to pay for my political travel as well as the expenses on those trips related to the Executive Protection Unit’s travel, not because I have to but because it’s the right thing to do,” Youngkin said in a statement, noting that he also donates his $175,000 a year salary.
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., when governor, made 14 trips outside Virginia in his capacity as chairman of the Democratic National Committee. The committee reimbursed the state for the EPU’s travel expenses for those trips, a total of $7,515.59.
Youngkin’s travels, even before his trips this month to campaign in Maine for controversial former Gov. Paul LePage, and to Nevada to boost Joe Lombardo’s bid for governor, have sparked speculation that he is laying the groundwork for a run for president in 2024, as well as criticism from Democratic legislators that he’s spending too much time politicking out of state.
In all, between March and August Youngkin went out of state 12 times on unofficial business, including a trip to the Bahamas, for which the EPU expenses amount to $2,531, and two to Jackson Hole, Wyo., where the unit’s expenses totaled $10,596.
In addition to the eight personal trips during which the EPU incurred expenses and the three political trips, he made one trip to Durham, N.C, during which EPU officers recorded no travel expenses.
Youngkin went to the Bahamas to celebrate his wedding anniversary, press secretary Macaulay Porter said.
While a CBS News reporter tweeted that Youngkin spoke with GOP donors at a private retreat during his August trip to Wyoming, Porter said he took time from a family vacation to go to a gathering hosted by the American Enterprise Institute, but was not fundraising.
Excluding public trade missions, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe made 22 out of state trips over a comparable period in his first year in office, for which the EPU incurred expenses totaling $28,743.17, State Police records show.
That sum does not include expenses of $1,934 trips to Los Angeles and Aspen, Colo., which were reimbursed by McAuliffe’s political action committee.
In 2015, The Washington Post reported that McAuliffe paid the state nearly $40,000, to cover his use of state planes for 16 trips he made for personal reasons.
He paid the Department of Aviation $985 an hour for those trips, which included attending NCAA tournament basketball games and time socializing with his friends Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Democratic Party of Virginia spokesperson Gianni Snidle said Youngkin needs to give a full account of his travel expenses. The party has asked for an itemized breakdown of costs of each out of state trip, detailing hotels, means, airfares and other expenses as well as receipts or other proof of reimbursement to the State Police.