A campaign finance watchdog group wants the Florida Commission on Ethics to investigate trips that Gov. Ron DeSantis took and why he didn’t disclose them.
Listen To This Story
It’s not just conservative Supreme Court justices who get treated to trips on private jets and then fail to report them. According to a campaign finance watchdog group, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has also been enjoying this type of exclusive travel without then disclosing the flights. In his case, the alleged benefactor was not a conservative billionaire but rather a conservative group, And To The Republic (ATTR), which flew the presidential hopeful to speaking engagements around the country.
Now, the Campaign Legal Center (CLC) is asking the Florida Commission on Ethics to look into this arrangement and whether DeSantis failed to report the trips as required under Florida law.
The exact cost of the flights is unknown but certainly exceeded $100, the CLC argued in a complaint filed with the commission on Thursday. DeSantis must report any gifts of more than $100 in value by the end of the quarter in which he received them. He missed the June 30th deadline to do so.
“This lack of disclosure from Governor DeSantis appears to be a clear violation of state laws that are necessary to maintaining public trust,” said Kedric Payne, CLC vice president, general counsel, and senior director of ethics. “Floridians have a right to know that government officials representing them are acting in the public’s interests — not their own personal interest, or the interests of the wealthy special interests who give them gifts.”
On one of the trips arranged by ATTR, DeSantis flew aboard a jet owned by Jeffrey Soffer, a Miami hotel owner who has lobbied to change Florida’s gambling laws.
ATTR confirmed it had arranged for DeSantis’s travel, according to reporting by The New York Times cited in the CLC complaint. The organization said it did not consider the travel either a gift or a political contribution. ATTR arranged the flights using its connections to wealthy individuals like Soffer.
The speaking engagements for which DeSantis traveled included stops in Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York where he gave barnstorming speeches to police unions.
ATTR, which was formed earlier this year, seeks to promote the work of conservative governors — DeSantis prominent among them.
If the flights, which occurred before DeSantis declared his candidacy for president, supported the governor’s presidential ambitions, both he and ATTR would need to report the costs for each flight to the Federal Election Commission. No such reports have been filed, according to CLC.
Neither DeSantis nor Florida has reimbursed the individuals involved in arranging the travel for expenses incurred, which, the group says, makes those expenses a gift.
“No publicly available evidence suggests that the trips Gov. DeSantis took were related to officially approved governmental business,” the complaint reads. “ATTR acknowledged that it paid for or gave travel on private jets to Gov. DeSantis on behalf of individuals such as Mr. Soffer, which Gov. DeSantis does not appear to have repaid. Based on these facts, Gov. DeSantis’s free air travel is a gift under Florida law.”
The investigation that CLC calls for would determine the nature and value of the favor ATTR did for DeSantis.
This is not the first time watchdogs have tangled with DeSantis. The governor previously faced scrutiny after he transferred money raised in Florida, outside the jurisdiction of federal campaign finance law, to a Super PAC supporting his bid for president.