INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb committed no wrongdoing last year when he accepted two private jet flights paid for by a casino magnate to Republican Governors Association events, the state’s inspector general has concluded.
The inspector general’s office began its investigation last spring after The Indianapolis Star reported that Spectacle Entertainment CEO and Chairman Rod Ratcliff flew Holcomb to RGA meetings in Aspen, Colorado, and Scottsdale, Arizona, while Ratcliff was pushing for changes to Indiana law that would benefit his business.
The office investigated whether Holcomb failed to disclose information about gifts received. But it determined in a report released Monday that the gifts — the two chartered flights — were provided to the Republican Governors Association, and not to Holcomb’s office, WRTV-TV reported.
The report, which states that the case has been closed for insufficient cause, found that neither Holcomb nor his wife, Janet, accepted the flights “as gifts from an entity or entities with a business relationship with the Governor’s Office.”
The inspector general’s office investigates allegations of criminal activity and ethics violations in state government. But as part of its inquiry into the two fights, the office did not open an investigation into Indiana’s gift rule, which bars state employees from accepting gifts from someone who is seeking to influence the employee.
The office’s report found that the gift rule does not apply to Indiana’s governor.
Holcomb’s private flights, valued at about $50,000 total, gave Ratcliff and his business partners hours of exclusive access to the governor. One of the flights came just one day before Ratcliff and his business partner, Greg Gibson of Terre Haute, announced in November the company’s plans to buy two Gary casinos.
Holcomb’s flights were among $500,000 that Ratcliff and his companies contributed last year to the Republican Governors Association, The Indianapolis Star reported. 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 U.S.
Contributions from casino interests to organizations like the RGA have long drawn fire from government accountability groups, which see them as a way to skirt Indiana’s prohibition on campaign donations from casino interests.