BREAKING NEW REPORT: Tate Reeves Used The Taxpayer Funded State Plane To Attend Mardi Gras Party And Take His Family On A Weekend Trip
This Comes After Previous Reports That He Used At Least $31,000 In Taxpayer Dollars For Trips “That Don’t Appear To Directly Involve State Business”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
October 19, 2023
Nettleton – A new investigation from the Daily Journal yesterday revealed that Tate Reeves used the state plane to “bring his wife to and from a Mardi Gras party with political allies” and “later to bring his family on a weekend trip to the coast.” Recently, Mississippi Today revealed that during his first term as governor, Tate Reeves also “used at least $31,000 in taxpayer funds to take trips on Mississippi’s state airplane to political events that don’t appear to directly involve state business.”
Weeks after Tate Reeves was elected governor, he used the state plane to fly his wife to a Mardi Gras event in Pascagoula, where she was the only passenger. Four hours later, the plane flew back to Jackson with both Tate Reeves and his wife. This trip cost taxpayers $1,644.50.
Tate Reeves also used the state plane to take his whole family on vacation to Gulfport. The two separate round trips to fly the family there and back cost taxpayers $3,036.
Reeves’ office did not answer why these family trips were official state business, or why only family members went on the plane without any staff, or if the governor ever reimbursed the state for using the plane.
Tate Reeves has made a habit of wasting taxpayer dollars for his own personal luxuries. A Daily Beast report found that Tate Reeves has spent $2.4 million in taxpayer funds on updates and renovations to the Governor’s Mansion since he took office in 2020, which included a meditation garden and a lemon tree room, since he took office in 2020.
“While Mississippians continue to pay for Tate Reeves’ lavish lifestyle, they are left with underfunded schools, hospitals on the brink of closure, and the highest-in-the-country grocery tax,” said Michael Beyer, Communications Director for Brandon Presley for Governor. “It’s time that Tate stops hiding and answers to the people of Mississippi about why there is always enough money for him, and never enough money for Mississippi families.”
Read the full story here:
Daily Journal: Gov. Reeves used state plane for Mardi Gras party and family trip to coast
October 18, 2023
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves used the official state plane to bring his wife to and from a Mardi Gras party with political allies a month after his inauguration and later to bring his family on a weekend trip to the coast, according to records reviewed by the Daily Journal.
The governor's office said the trips were justified by official state business.
Mississippi’s Gulf Coast is a power center for the governor, who benefits from votes and donations from the well-populated, highly developed, heavily Republican region that is home to major oil, shipbuilding, gaming and port business interests.
In February 2020, Reeves and First Lady Elee Reeves went to a black-tie Mardi Gras coronation party thrown by a coastal business group in a county that gave Reeves one of his highest vote counts in his November 2019 election.
Attendees included the Jackson County campaign chair, who Reeves appointed to multiple boards.
Reeves used the state plane to fly his wife to the Pascagoula event. She was the only passenger. Four hours later, the plane returned to Jackson after the party, carrying the governor, his wife and an aide to the governor.
The trip cost $1,644.50.
The intended use of the state plane is to “conduct business on behalf of Mississippi and/or to the benefit of the state,” according to the public policy of the Department of Finance and Administration’s Office of Air Transport Services.
In a statement to the Daily Journal, the governor's communications director Hunter Estes said Reeves had official events on the coast earlier that day, including a meeting with the Department of Marine Resources commissioner, a meeting on the state of the Gulf Coast Coliseum and a visit to Bayou View Elementary School.
He did not respond to questions about using the state plane to bring the First Lady to the Mardi Gras event and to return the governor and First Lady to Jackson afterward.
He also did not confirm if his office spent public tax dollars returning empty vehicles or personnel to Jackson without the governor after he took the state plane home instead.
The following year, the governor used the state plane to travel with his wife and three daughters to and from the coastal city of Gulfport, arriving on a Friday afternoon and returning to Jackson on Monday morning. Over that weekend, the governor posted a social media picture of the family at the Mississippi Aquarium in Gulfport.
The plane took two separate round-trips to transport the family, for a total cost of $3,036.
Estes said during the trip Reeves "spoke at an association’s award dinner in Biloxi and spoke to the Community College Board of Trustees in Gulfport."
Estes did not respond to follow up questions about the nature of the Biloxi event or the board meeting or explain why the state plane was used to bring the governor's family but no official staff.
Besides these trips, last month Mississippi Today reported on Gov. Reeves using the state plane to travel to explicitly political out-of-state events like the 2022 Conservative Political Action Conference, three separate Republican Governors Association events in 2021 and 2022, two speaking engagements with the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List in 2022, and a Fox News “Red State Trailblazers Town Hall” event in 2021.
That Mississippi Today investigation also found at least 10 trips that apparently overlapped with campaign fundraising events.
The governor's office did not respond to the Daily Journal's questions about the governor's policy on when use of the plane is appropriate and whether he ever reimburses the state from campaign or personal funds.
Mardi Gras event was in governor’s political stronghold
When Reeves was elected governor in 2019, the counties where he won the highest percentage of the vote were in the coastal region and in the far corner of Northeast Mississippi. His largest vote shares were about 29,000 in his hometown Rankin County in the populous Jackson suburbs; about 22,000 from densely populated DeSoto County in the northwest corner of the state outside Memphis, Tennessee; and about 26,000 in Harrison County and 20,000 in Jackson County, both on the coast.
The Feb. 21, 2020, party in Pascagoula was the annual Young Men’s Business Club (YMBC) “coronation ball,” which “recognizes outstanding residents of Jackson County, Mississippi who have made meaningful contributions to the community through professional, civic or personal impacts.”
First Lady Elee Reeves posted a social media photo the next day of herself and the governor in formal evening wear standing on a red carpet in front of a pair of thrones.
“Always fun to spend this time of year celebrating with our friends on the Gulf Coast,” she said in the caption.
Attendees included Capitol Group lobbying firm founder and state GOP convention delegate Haley Martin; coastal realtor and Reeves campaign county chair Mark Cumbest; and local native Brad Arnold of the rock band Three Doors Down, according to other social media posts from the event.
Almost three years later, Cumbest posted social media pictures from the Governor’s Mansion thanking the governor and First Lady for their 2022 Christmas party.
“I enjoy a great friendship with both of them and I appreciate Governor Reeves appointing me as the 4th Congressional District Representative to the Mississippi Real Estate Commission, to the Gulf Coast Recovery Fund Advisory Board, and to the Mississippi Windstorm Underwriters Association Board of Directors (the Wind Pool Board),” Cumbest wrote.
Cumbest did not respond to the Daily Journal's request for comment.