Though DeSantis’ campaign is bragging about his fundraising in the first 24 hours, Ron DeSantis’ administration officials are also soliciting campaign cash from lobbyists who have business currently before the governor, and they’re doing it before the state budget is signed.
“Officials who work for Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration — not his campaign — have been sending text messages to Florida lobbyists soliciting political contributions for DeSantis’ presidential bid, a breach of traditional norms that has raised ethical and legal questions and left many here in the state capital shocked,” an exclusive report from NBC News informs.
NBC News reports they reviewed messages from four different administration officials, ranging from those “directly in the governor’s office and with leadership positions in state agencies” and “They requested the recipient of the message contribute to the governor’s campaign through a specific link that appeared to track who is giving as part of a ‘bundle” program.’”
This practice was described as “jaw-dropping” by folks long involved in Florida politics, so it’s not business as usual.
It looks like a clear demand for campaign cash to lobbyists with business before the sitting Governor, which might qualify as quid pro quo. Quid pro quo is defined as “a favor or advantage granted or expected in return for something.” Quid pro quo is not necessarily illegal, but it can refer to something that is potentially illegal when used in a political realm.
The specific issue here is not only that Ron DeSantis needs to put the squeeze on lobbyists for campaign cash, which in and of itself raises some questions about his viability as a candidate, but that he is using government staff, paid by the taxpayer, to do the work of campaign officials possibly using taxpayer funded items like phones and laptops, and is using the lobbyists desire to get something from DeSantis’ government to twist arms to get donations.
It’s pretty bad.
DeSantis is also bragging about his fundraising haul, as if it suggests his strengths as a candidate. “DeSantis campaign says it raised $8.2 Million in first 24 hours,” the New York Times reported, claiming, “The cash haul points to the strengths Ron DeSantis will have in taking on Donald Trump.” Sure, that is a big haul but it seems it isn’t all organic if his administration are strong-arming lobbyists for cash before he signs the budget, and that can be misleading about the candidate’s strength and popularity.
“The stories of @RonDeSantis GOVERNMENT staff…not campaign, GOVERNMENT staff soliciting Florida lobbyists for money for his Presidential campaign should draw the immediate attention of the Department of Justice. This is Putinesque kleptocracy,” Project Lincoln founder Rick Wilson wrote above the news. Wilson called this “quid pro quo” and pointed out that it’s especially “outrageous” because “DeSantis has yet to sign the state budget.”
Ron DeSantis clearly patterns himself after Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in his usage of power to steal more power, but that he does so with the big assist of doing it in the wake of Trump’s so far unpunished and blatant self-dealing corruption for years makes it all the easier for the Florida Republican to graft and appear to operate like a mobster.
Just hours before his failure to launch campaign announcement on Twitter, Ron DeSantis did exactly what Orbán has been teaching conservatives to do to hasten the backsliding of democracy: He changed yet another law to accommodate his own grab for power. This one was a “sweeping election bill” that made a change to the state’s “resign-to-run” law, which NBC reported in a separate piece “Republican legislative leaders have long said they would change it to ensure there were no legal concerns.”
Note that last sentence, because it’s exactly what Viktor Orbán preaches: Change the law so it’s legal to grab more power. Rinse, repeat while taking control of media and distracting with culture war issues.
DeSantis’ administration didn’t bother replying to NBC News in time for publication, “but one administration official acknowledged that they were fundraising for the campaign.”
It’s not clear that this is illegal, as it depends upon a number of factors “including whether they were sent on state-owned phones, or if they were sent on state property. A longtime Florida election law attorney said that even if the DeSantis aides are fundraising for the campaign in their personal capacity, off the government clock, it still raised ethical questions.”
Ethical questions are not an issue for a Republican candidate anymore, so that’s a nonstarter. It might even be a brag added to a speech.
Knowing our Justice Department under a Democratic president, this will be ignored even if it rises to the level of potential illegality for fear of looking partisan — an outdated value meant to protect our institutions that is continuing to enable the erosion of democracy and freedom in this country. (This is not suggesting the DOJ should be weaponized; rather, it is suggesting the DOJ is being weaponized by gaming the ref with unproven accusations of bias.)
It might not be illegal, but it is the corrupt use of a politician’s authority for personal gain. It puts the people of Florida last. It abuses the power given to this Governor to work for his state. And it informs as to how DeSantis will lead should he be successful in his bid for the White House.
Listen to Sarah on the PoliticusUSA Pod on The Daily newsletter podcast here.
Sarah has been credentialed to cover President Barack Obama, then VP Joe Biden, 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and exclusively interviewed Speaker Nancy Pelosi multiple times and exclusively covered her first home appearance after the first impeachment of then President Donald Trump.
Sarah is two-time Telly award winning video producer and a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.
Connect with Sarah on Post, Mastodon @[email protected], & Twitter.