Did tax money pay for Missouri auditor candidate’s plane?
Did taxpayers subsidize the purchase of a six-seater plane for Missouri Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick, a candidate for state auditor?
Voters in Missouri may want to hear the answer to this question. They will want to review Fitzpatrick’s record and that of the company he founded, called MariCorp US, based in Shell Knob, Missouri.
It presents itself as an industry leader in the manufacture and installation of boat docks. Fitzpatrick founded the company when he was 17 years old. It has about 70 employees.
In late 2019, MariCorp US purchased a used Piper Malibu Meridian aircraft, a six-seat single-engine turboprop with a pressurized cabin. Figures available online indicate that the average price of a used Meridian is $1.1 million, although the campaign says it costs closer to $800,000.
Federal Aviation Administration records show an aircraft certificate was issued to MariCorp on March 11, 2020, though Fitzpatrick’s campaign says a “purchase agreement” for the plane was in fact signed. in December 2019.
The aircraft (FAA N97BF) needed work before it could be certified, the campaign says.
These dates are important due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Less than a month after the purchase of the plane was finalized, records show, Fitzpatrick’s company applied for and received a loan from the federal Paycheck Protection Program, which was part of the nationwide response to the pandemic.
MariCorp received a PPP loan of $690,400 on April 4, 2020. This means Fitzpatrick’s company received federal assistance to pay its workers for less than a month. after finalize the purchase of an aircraft for $800,000.
MariCorp applied for a second PPP loan in 2021, this time for $646,071. A searchable database compiled by ProPublica indicates that the first loan has been cancelled, while the status of the second loan is listed as “unknown”. The campaign says both loans have been cancelled.
Voters Can Do The Math: MariCorp Requested And Received More Than $1.3 Million From Taxpayers Just To Meet Payrolls, Months After Buying $800,000 Plane he still has.
Fitzpatrick’s campaign says the two facts are unrelated. “MariCorp has been using small business jets since 2016 to visit clients, conduct project site tours and fly employees around the country,” campaign adviser Steele Shippy told us.
“MariCorp was one of more than 5 million companies that used the Trump administration’s Paycheck Protection Program to provide job security for its employees during a time of great economic uncertainty,” says Shippy’s email.
“MariCorp used every dollar of funding received through the program to pay employees,” he said.
There does not appear to have been any attempt to sell the plane to pay the workers. In fact, Fitzpatrick uses the plane for campaign purposes as well as company business (flight tracking shows repeated use in Missouri in July.)
We supported the PPP program, which provided essential income to workers affected by the COVID-19 closures. We are more skeptical of the need for a pressurized six-seater plane for a company that has twice asked taxpayers to cover its payroll and whose founder uses the plane for political purposes.
Claire McCaskill, you may recall, took a lot of heat for using a private jet while she was in the Senate. Other politicians, including Fitzpatrick, deserve similar scrutiny.
“I’ve been a tough fighter for the taxpayers,” Fitzpatrick says on his audit campaign website. We know a good place for him to continue this battle, if elected.
Fitzpatrick’s main Republican opponent is David Gregory, a St. Louis lawyer and former state legislator. We are reviewing his record, including allegations of possible legal confusion eight years ago. So far, Gregory has not responded to our requests for comment.
We’ll let you know what we find.
This story was originally published July 21, 2022 2:24 p.m.