Gov. Glenn Youngkin left Virginia a dozen times for personal or political travel between March and August, according to public records obtained by VPM News.
The records show a governor on the move, with stops ranging from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to the Bahamas. Costs from his Virginia State Police security detail totaled about $18,400 for the trips.
Neither the destinations nor costs are unprecedented.
During a similar time frame of former Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s term in 2014, the Democrat traveled to Turks and Caicos Islands, Nantucket and the Hamptons, according to public records provided by Virginia State Police. McAuliffe’s travels — drawn from a previous public records request submitted by The Associated Press — aren’t directly comparable to Youngkin’s, since they don’t indicate whether the trips were conducted for official state business or for personal or political reasons. Some destinations on McAuliffe’s list — including China and San Diego — were documented in news reports as state-related economic development trips.
Youngkin’s travel schedule has drawn increased scrutiny from Democrats as he attends fundraisers and stumps for Republican candidates across the country, fueling speculation he might run for president. The Democratic Party of Virginia filed records requests to learn more about his travel last week, and VPM News and other media outlets followed suit.
The Youngkin administration previously blocked the release of his nonpublic calendar, so VPM News also sought records from VSP, which travels with Virginia governors to provide protection.
Some of Youngkin’s trips included in VSP’s records align with previously reported travel, including August stops in Michigan to campaign for Republican gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon and an appearance at an American Enterprise Institute retreat in Jackson Hole earlier that month. Youngkin also owns property in the area, according to disclosure forms he filed in January.
The governor also made two trips to Hunt, Texas, another location where the former private equity CEO owns property. And Youngkin made what his spokesperson, Macaulay Porter, described as a brief trip to the Bahamas to celebrate his wedding anniversary in May.
In a statement, Youngkin called Democrats’ attacks on his travel a “desperate attempt to distract from the promises we’ve made and delivered for all Virginians.”
“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.
Youngkin’s fundraising committee already reimbursed VSP for protective service costs in the case of Youngkin’s trip to Dallas, according to VSP Spokesperson Corrine Geller. Other political stops to Michigan and Nebraska didn’t incur any costs because agents didn’t spend the night, Geller said. Past governors have not reimbursed the state for expenses related to personal travel, and Geller said Youngkin has not done so either.
VSP’s records show the month, destination and cost of Youngkin and McAuliffe’s trips, but no breakdown of expenses or specific dates of travel. Geller pointed to a state law that allows departments to block the release of information that “would reveal the staffing, logistics, or tactical plans” of protective details.
It was up to the administration to distinguish between personal trips and political ones, according to Geller. Youngkin’s August trip to Jackson Hole — the most expensive item on the list coming in at $9,511.19 — is marked as a personal trip. Porter said Youngkin spent his time at the AEI event and vacationing with his family, but he did not actively fundraise.
Gianni Snidle, a spokesperson for the Democratic Party of Virginia, questioned those distinctions. He said the party had filed follow-up requests pressing for expense invoices.
“It’s clear that when Governor Youngkin isn’t campaigning for anti-abortion radicals or unabashed racists, he’s taking secret vacations to the Bahamas, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and any other place than Virginia,” Snidle said in an email.
Rich Meagher, an associate professor of political science at Randolph-Macon College, said out-of-state travel in its own right didn’t present a political liability to Youngkin. The bigger problem, he said, is if Youngkin’s potential national ambitions steered state-level policy.
“I don’t think that the governor is all that essential to the day-to-day operation of the state that he can’t step away and take a trip,” Meagher said.
Additional reporting by Connor Scribner