BY DAVE RESS Richmond Times-Dispatch
RICHMOND — Virginia State Police troopers incurred $18,376.93 in expenses in August as Gov. Glenn Youngkin traveled out of state on official business — but none of it was for trips to support Republican political candidates.
The expenses for eight trips between March and August, described as personal, covered the travel expenses of enforcement protection officers, Virginia State Police said in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the Richmond Times-Dispatch. The governor reimbursed the EPU for his political trips when officials incurred travel expenses due to overnight stays.
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The listed costs for security officers — reimbursed or not — do not include employee salaries, said state police spokeswoman Corinne Geller.
“The EPU goes with the governor when he travels; it’s just the cost of doing business,” she said.
She said governors in recent years have not reimbursed state police for EPU expenses when they travel on personal business.
Youngkin’s political action committee reimbursed executive protection unit travel expenses incurred for his trip to Texas in April, which was described as political, Geller said.
No expenses were incurred for a trip in July to Nebraska to speak at the state Republican convention or for a trip to Michigan to campaign for the Republican candidate in the race for governor of that state, as these were day trips and no usual travel expenses, she said.
Asked about presidential ambitions, Youngkin said he’s undecided, that he’s focused on Virginia and that the media cares more about him than the issue.
He says Democrats’ criticism of his out-of-state travel and political activity is just partisan politics.
“I have paid and will continue to pay for my political travel, as well as the expenses of that travel related to the travel of the Executive Protection Unit, not because I have to, but because it is the right thing to do,” Youngkin said in a statement, noting that he also donates his annual salary of $175,000.
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., when he was governor, made 14 trips outside of Virginia in his capacity as chairman of the Democratic National Committee. The committee reimbursed the state for EPU travel expenses for these trips, totaling $7,515.59.
Youngkin’s trips, even before his trips this month to campaign in Maine for controversial former Gov. Paul LePage and to Nevada to boost Joe Lombardo’s gubernatorial bid, have fueled speculation that he is laying the groundwork for a presidential run in 2024 as well as criticism from Democratic lawmakers that he spends 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 that cost the EPU $2,531 and two to Jackson Hole, Wyo., that cost the unit $10,596.
In addition to the eight personal trips on which the EPU incurred expenses and the three political trips, he made one trip to Durham, North Carolina, during which EPU officials reported no travel expenses.
Youngkin went to the Bahamas to celebrate his wedding anniversary, said press secretary Macauley Porter.
While a CBS News reporter tweeted that Youngkin spoke to Republican donors at a private retreat during his August trip to Wyoming, Porter said he took time off from a family vacation to attend a gathering hosted by the American Enterprise Institute. but has not raised funds.
Excluding public trade missions, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe made 22 trips to the state during a comparable period in his first year in office, for which the EPU incurred expenses totaling $28,743.17, state police records show.
That amount does not include the cost of $1,934 trips to Los Angeles and Aspen, Colorado, 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 the use of state planes for 16 trips he took for personal reasons.
He paid the Aviation Department $985 an hour for those trips, which included attending NCAA tournament basketball games and socializing with his friends Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Virginia Democratic Party spokeswoman Janie Sniddle said Youngkin must fully account for his travel expenses. The party has requested a detailed breakdown of expenses for each out-of-state trip, detailing hotels, funds, airfare and other expenses, as well as receipts or other evidence of reimbursement to state police.