Tripped up: Newsom’s Montana vacation latest in string of travel controversies

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D-CA) out-of-state travels are drawing waves of negative headlines — and not for the first time.

Newsom is currently on vacation with his family in Montana, which is blacklisted by the state of California over what the latter deems discriminatory laws against LGBT individuals. Last year, California banned state-funded travel to Montana after its Republican governor, Greg Gianforte, announced that transgender female students cannot compete in girls sports.

Jennifer Siebel Newsom and Gavin Newsom - 112418
Gov. Gavin Newsom hugs his wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom.

(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

The Newsom backlash has been swift, with conservatives and the media questioning whether Newsom was using any taxpayer funds on the trip, such as a security detail.

“California’s ‘travel ban’ is an absurd policy. The hypocrisy of our absurd governor is just the latest illustration,” tweeted state GOP Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, a frequent Newsom critic and candidate for California’s newly created 3rd Congressional District, which stretches from the Sierra Nevada mountain range far south to Death Valley.

Newsom’s communications director, Erin Mellon, defended the governor’s Montana travels.

“The travel ban applies to expending state funds. The governor’s travel is not being paid for by the state. This is a personal trip to visit family who live outside the state,” Mellon told the Washington Examiner.

State Sen. Melissa Melendez (R) wasn’t buying that response. Melendez tweeted a comment by another Newsom spokesperson, Anthony York, who wouldn’t discuss the governor’s security arrangement.

“’Asked if the state is paying for his security, York says the office doesn’t comment on security,’” Melendez tweeted, quoting another tweet. “So, yes then.”

Newsom appears likely to cruise to a second term in November, with a 56% showing in the state primary election. In November, Newsom faces state Sen. Brian Dahle, a Republican who represents a swath of rural counties in California’s far north.

Newsom survived a recall attempt last year that was spurred, in part, by other eyebrow-raising travel events — specifically, when the governor was at a maskless dinner party at a Michelin-rated Napa Valley restaurant during the height of COVID-19 restrictions in California, and in late 2021, with many of the coronavirus rules still in effect, Newsom went to Mexico, vacationing in Cabo San Lucas.

Newsom was photographed by the California Globe staying at a $29,000-per-night villa owned by a Russian oligarch. Property owner Oleg Tinkov pleaded guilty a month earlier to evading taxes of $248 million, the Daily Mail reported.

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Newsom’s stay came at a time when the public was urged to eat Thanksgiving dinners outside, wear masks, and avoid inviting large groups or relatives who weren’t fully vaccinated.

Newsom stayed four houses away from another villa owned by Tinkov, which the billionaire uses for himself. A source told the California Globe that black SUVs and about 15 cars were parked at the Newsom compound.

Mellon denied that Newsom was there, but photos of Newsom reclined on a chaise longue with his wife showed otherwise.

And in 2019, shortly after taking office, Newsom traveled to El Salvador to discuss the roots of migration to America, where California became the first sanctuary state for illegal immigration.

“I don’t like people being called invaders,” Newsom told CalMatters, a nonprofit California investigative news site. “I don’t like the language coming from the Trump administration. I don’t like the rhetoric coming out of the administration. I want to understand.”

Salvadorans comprise the largest number of immigrants in America under temporary protected status, and California has the highest population of this group. The total number of immigrants is 440,000, the Desert Sun reported.

Newsom wanted to assure the country’s president that California was a more humanitarian alternative to former President Donald Trump, an economist said. The governor’s visit came at a time when several high-profile bills were pending in the legislature. Newsom left the lieutenant governor in charge during the trip.

A Los Angeles Times columnist accused Newsom of being “an ambitious rookie governor trying to play world leader.”

“The new governor hasn’t been on the job long enough — three months — to earn junket rights,” the article said. “There’s nothing in the California Constitution about the duty of a governor to get up to speed on why people migrate to the U.S.”

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But Kiley, the Republican assemblyman running for Congress, believes that escaping California’s plummeting standard of living due to Newsom’s mandates has forced the governor to leave the state as well.

“With every act of hypocrisy, he provides a new case study in failed leadership,” Kiley said. “His policies have been such a disaster for California that he is unwilling to live with them himself.”

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