DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds traveled to a private political event in Rhode Island this week, hours after her staff announced that the Republican governor was abruptly canceling an upcoming state-related economic development trip to New York City.
The Tuesday evening event was organized by a Rhode Island GOP fundraiser who posted a picture on Facebook of himself and the governor at the event near Newport.
“Happy to host Governor of Iowa Kim Reynolds,” organizer Russell Taub wrote with the photo, which included a Rhode Island location stamp.
Earlier in the day, Reynolds’ staff sent out a last-minute change to the governor’s public schedule. It said Reynolds, who was supposed to be in New York City starting Wednesday for Iowa economic development meetings through the rest of the week, would instead send acting Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg.
“The governor will stay in Des Moines to work with House and Senate leaders on tax reform and other legislative issues,” the news release said.
It’s unclear when and how Reynolds got to Rhode Island, or why she decided to attend the political event but cancel her work-related New York trip. The governor was in Iowa on Monday morning for a press conference but had no public events scheduled the rest of the day or Tuesday, when the political event was held.
Reynolds’ administrative staff directed questions to her gubernatorial campaign. Pat Garrett, Reynolds’ campaign communications director, said in an email: “She traveled to Rhode Island for a political event and we were back in Iowa that evening.”
Garrett declined to answer other questions, including whether Reynolds flew via a commercial or private flight.
Iowa Democratic Party chairman Troy Price criticized Reynolds and the circumstances surrounding her trip.
“Governor Reynolds has shown time and again her priorities lie with her campaign donors, so it’s no surprise that she would ditch our state in the middle of critical budget negotiations to rake in the cash,” he said in a statement.
Reynolds was one of several Republican governors who attended political events this week organized by Taub, a 2016 GOP candidate for a U.S. House seat. He has contributed more than $211,000 to dozens of Republican candidates and conservative groups since the 2016 election, according to Federal Election Commission records. Among the recipients are Republicans running for U.S. Senate and House this year, including some in contested primary races.
In January, Taub contributed $5,000 to a political action committee with whom former President Donald Trump adviser Steve Bannon has been affiliated. Taub also contributed $5,400 in March to Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, who is not up for re-election this year.
Taub’s Facebook page, which is public, includes photos with a variety of Republican politicians, including Vice President Mike Pence earlier this year. It also includes a photo that shares a conspiracy theory about a Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead. The photo, posted days after the shooting, compares an image of one student being interviewed after the shooting with another of the same student in California last year. A hoax that spread after the shooting was that the student was a crisis actor.
“The media is scamming us once more if this is legitimate?” Taub asked in the posting.
Taub did not immediately respond to a phone message left Thursday afternoon.
Reynolds, who became governor last year after former Gov. Terry Branstad became U.S. ambassador to China, is seeking a full four-year term in this year’s gubernatorial race. Her campaign announced in January it had raised more than $3.7 million in 2017, with roughly $4.1 million cash on hand. She launched her first television ad this month.
Six Democrats and two libertarians will face off in the June 5 primary for governor. Reynolds has no primary challenger, after an elections panel determined former Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett didn’t submit all the paperwork needed to qualify for the ballot.
Associated Press writers Ryan J. Foley in Iowa City and Thomas Beaumont in Des Moines contributed to this report.