Gov. Eric Holcomb has been cleared by the Indiana Inspector General’s office of any potential ethics violations related to the private flights a casino magnate treated him to last year.
Spectacle Entertainment CEO and Chairman Rod Ratcliff flew Holcomb and his wife, Janet, to two Republican Governors Association meetings in 2018—one in July in Aspen, Colorado, and another in November in Scottsdale, Arizona.
The flights occurred while Ratcliff was seeking a change in the state’s gambling laws to benefit his new company, which wanted to move two Gary casinos to more lucrative locations. The law to allow those moves passed the Indiana General Assembly this year and has been signed by Holcomb.
The RGA has maintained that the flights, valued at more than $55,000 combined, were considered an in-kind donation to the RGA rather than to Holcomb.
The Indiana Inspector General’s office received a complaint in April alleging that Holcomb violated the state’s ethics code by accepting the free flights and not reporting it on his 2018 financial disclosure statement.
The governor is required to submit a financial disclosure listing any gifts worth at least $100 from any entity with whom he has a business relationship.
The complaint also said the flight “included, and apparently required, uninterrupted access to the governor by those seeking to lobby the state for changes in Indiana’s gaming laws.”
But in a report issued Monday, the inspector general cleared Holcomb of any ethical violations, agreeing that the flights benefited the RGA.
“Although it is likely that the Governor’s attendance at the RGA meetings, and therefore the flights, had some benefit to the Governor and/or First Lady, the OIG found no evidence to dispute the claim that the flights primarily benefited the RGA,” the report read.
The inspector general also noted that having “uninterrupted access” to a publicly elected official is not in violation of the state’s ethics laws or any criminal laws.
According to the report, the RGA told the inspector general’s office that the organization regularly helps facilitate travel for governors to their meetings, whether that be offering to pay for their travel or connecting them with a donor who can provide it.
The Aspen flight was valued at $21,486 and the Scottsdale flight at $33,962.
The report says there is no evidence that the governor’s office worked directly with Spectacle to arrange the flights, so the flights would be considered a gift from the RGA.
The report goes on to say that the RGA doesn’t have a “business relationship” with Holcomb, so the flights did not have to be reported on the financial disclosure.
The RGA funded the vast majority of Holcomb’s 2016 gubernatorial campaign, contributing $7.6 million.
The flights were among $500,000 that Ratcliff and his companies contributed to the RGA in 2018. That sum was more than any other casino operator or Indiana company contributed to the RGA, which supports the election of GOP governors across the country.
“From the beginning, and throughout this process, we have been fully transparent in our responses to media inquiries, the Indiana Election Division and the Inspector General because there was, and is, nothing to hide,” Kyle Hupfer, campaign manager and treasurer for Holcomb, said in a written statement. “The Governor and First Lady’s travel was arranged for by the Republican Governors Association and the travel benefitted the Republican Governors Association. The Inspector General’s report confirms this fact–the same fact we have repeated time and time again.”