- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 6, 2022

California Gov. Gavin Newsom is being accused of hypocrisy for vacationing in Montana, a state subject to California’s ban on official travel.

The Democrat and his family are spending the week in the Big Sky state, one of 20 states to which state-sponsored travel is prohibited based on their “discriminatory laws” against LGBTQ people.

The ban under AB 1887 covers state-paid travel, not privately funded trips, but the governor was nonetheless ripped on social media for the trek to allegedly discriminatory Montana after it was first reported on Cal Matters.

“These silly state travel bans are Democrat virtue-signaling at its worst,” said Republican communications strategist Andrew Clark. “If Newsom truly believes Montana is so awful that state employees should be BANNED from traveling there, why is HE vacationing in Montana for a week?”

Republican state Sen. Melissa Melendez tweeted that “Democrats have banned state travel to these states. You’ll note Montana is on the list. Also of note, Gavin Newsom is currently vacationing in … Montana.”

This isn’t the first time Mr. Newsom has been accused of a “rules for thee, not for me” infraction. He was caught at an unmasked 2020 private party at the French Laundry restaurant in violation of pandemic orders, for which he apologized.

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The episode helped fuel last year’s gubernatorial recall, which Mr. Newsom defeated. The Democrat tipped his hand on his national ambitions last week with an ad urging Floridians to “join us” because freedom “is under attack in your state.”

But Newsom communications director Erin Mellon defended the Montana vacation, pointing out that the “travel ban applies to expending state funds.”

“The Governor’s travel is not being paid for by the state,” she told The Washington Times. “Connecting the two is irresponsible and falsely implies there is something untoward. This is a personal trip to visit family who live outside the state.”

The governor’s in-laws own a ranch in Montana. Mr. Newsom and his wife Jennifer were married there in 2008, according to the Associated Press.

Ms. Mellon added: “We are not in the business of regulating where people have family or where they spend their vacation. Nor will we persecute them for visiting their family. The press shouldn’t either.”

She declined to comment on whether Mr. Newsom was accompanied by a state security detail, something that presumably would require spending state funds in Montana.

She said “security concerns” prevented her from answering that question.

John Pelissero, senior ethics scholar at Santa Clara University, said that even if the trip doesn’t technically violate AB 1887, it’s still a bad look.

“From an ethical perspective, the optics of the governor traveling to a state subject to the travel ban are not good,” Mr. Pelissero said. “Even if the travel is personal and not state-funded, it can have the appearance of something inappropriate in the governor’s behavior. If the public perceives that the state’s elected leader is ignoring a travel ban, it can erode confidence in the leader and the state government.”

Mr. Clark, the Republican strategist, was unpersuaded by the state’s official explanation. “And by the way, Newsom‘s response that the law doesn’t apply to private travel is bull——,” he tweeted.

He explained that personal travel, because optional, would seem even more unethical than traveling to conduct official state business.

“If you’re going to use the power of government to BAN state employees from going to Montana on official business, there should be even MORE motivation to avoid going there for pleasure??” he wrote.

Montana landed on the no-travel list for its 2021 law barring biological males from participating in women’s scholastic sports even if the athlete now identifies as female.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced last week that four more states had been added to the list over their bills restricting access to female scholastic sports: Arizona, Louisiana, Indiana and Utah.

• Haris Alic can be reached at halic@washingtontimes.com.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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