Trips to Utah, Disney World, Mackinac, under scrutiny in Huizenga probe

Rep. Bill Huizenga

An inquiry into the spending of U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, places focus on the congressman’s trips to resorts across the country.

The Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) has recommended that the U.S. House Committee on Ethics take further review into possible spending violations by the Huizenga campaign. The potential violations include spending campaign dollars on non-campaign events and Huizenga’s congressional staff making contributions to the campaign.

OCE staff conducted interviews with Huizenga and members of his staff over the summer, asking why the campaign paid for trips for the staff’s family members.

Huizenga, during a June interview, told OCE that the campaign was “paying for their participation” when his congressional staff and family members attended trips to Walt Disney World, Mackinac Island and Park City, Utah. While these trips were considered fundraising events, the total costs of the trips occasionally exceeded the money raised.

“I see a direct benefit for the campaign for them traveling and coming,” Huizenga said in his interview. “To me, it’s a little selfish, but we do these things to benefit the campaign, and benefit me.”

The OCE, in its referral to the House Committee on Ethics, wrote that there is “substantial reason to believe that Rep. Huizenga’s Campaign Committee reported campaign disbursements that were not legitimate and verifiable campaign expenditures attributable to bona fide campaign or political purposes.”

During a February 2018 trip to a ski resort in Utah, the campaign spent at least $15,700 for Huizenga and his family, as well as the family of staff members, to attend. Although Huizenga and other staff members characterized the event as a “financial services-focused” event, Huizenga’s deputy chief of staff who focuses on financial services, Marliss McManus, did not attend. The report, which states that there are several instances of personal use of funds, highlights this trip.

“With respect to the Deer Valley (Utah) trip, the chief of staff (Jon DeWitte) explicitly stated that attendees didn’t need to bring children to participate, and the D.C. deputy (McManus) noted that space was limited on the trip,” the report states. “Nonetheless, Rep. Huizenga chose to bring his family and his chief of staff’s children on a financial services-focused fundraising trip, instead of bringing his financial services expert, the D.C. deputy.”

In addition to the trips to Disney and Utah, Huizenga took family members and staff families to the Michigan Republican Party’s Mackinac Island retreat in 2017. The congressman said that family members, including his son, brought “politically involved” friends to campaign during the event, but the report refutes this claim.

“The evidence shows that some of the 10 or more family members and friends brought to the Mackinac Island Conference did little or no work for the campaign while on the trip, and instead spent their time touring the island or shopping,” the report states.

In a statement, Huizenga’s communications director, Brian Patrick, denied any wrongdoing on the behalf of the campaign. He called the issue a “false narrative,” driven for partisan purposes.

In 2018, FEC counsel investigated the claims into Huizenga’s campaign finances and recommended that the board should dismiss the claims, but the commission’s final vote was split 2-2 in June, leading to the FEC dropping the case.

The OCE said that its report does not mean that a violation necessarily took place.

(1) comment


Bill Huizenga's entire family has taken a very disproportionate number of disbursements compared to all of his other Michigan peers.

His wife, Natalie Huizenga, has taken more disbursements than some representatives have given themselves:

Brian "Boomer" Patrick, Bill Huizenga's Communications Director himself has also taken more disbursements than all of his Michigan Communication Director peers:

That doesn't even get into the disbursements that Bill Huizenga has given his James Barry LLC (Renamed JB America). The corporation was renamed almost exactly 1 month before it started recieving disbursements:

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