Watchdog accuses Ron DeSantis of ‘blurring the lines’ with government resources and campaigning
In Florida, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has been using a government-owned plane for state business, which is nothing usual. But according to Orlando Sentinel reporter Steven Lemongello, he has also been using it for “campaign-style events” — and a government watchdog group believes he is “blurring the lines” with this activity.
“Gov. Ron DeSantis flies to events all over Florida in the state plane, which cost more than $15 million to buy and $3 million-plus a year to operate,” Lemongello explains. “But some of the official appearances his office promotes as news conferences have resembled campaign rallies, filled with Palm Beach International Airport supporters and political chants. And many of those have been paired with DeSantis campaign e-mails, including some selling merchandise emblazoned with a slogan such as ‘Don’t Tread on Florida’ that appeared prominently at an event that same day.”
DeSantis is up for reelection in 2022, and he is being mentioned as a possible GOP presidential candidate for 2024.
The Sentinel discussed DeSantis’ activities with the nonpartisan government watchdog group Integrity Florida. Ben Wilcox, their research director, told the Sentinel, “There doesn’t appear to be a border in this case. He’s really blurring the lines between what is considered campaign activity and his public duties of the office. I think it’s highly questionable, but I’m not sure what the remedy is.”
DeSantis spokesperson Christina Pushaw insists that the Florida governor isn’t using the state plane for any campaigning.
Pushaw told the Sentinel, “There’s no coordination between the state office and the campaign. That would be unlawful, and we have not violated the law.”
Lemongello, however, cites a few examples of events that weren’t campaign events in the strict sense but included some campaign-ish activity — one at the Hilton Palm Beach Airport in West Palm Beach on February 19, the other at the same hotel on November 3.
The reporter notes, “Many events are clearly held within the governor’s official duties, but others turn into campaign-style rallies…. On February 19…. DeSantis and State Sen. Blaise Ingoglia drew cheers by alluding to former President Trump’s false claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election, with Ingoglia attacking local elections officials as ‘rogue’ and claimed they were ‘hiding in the backroom, duplicating ballots, matching signatures’…. The same Airport Hilton was the site of a November 3 event, in which DeSantis called for even more elections law changes, that featured a similarly raucous audience chanting, ‘Let’s Go, Brandon.’”
On the far right, “Let’s go, Brandon” is a popular anti-Biden chant that is code for “Fuck Joe Biden.”
With Republicans controlling the Florida State Legislature, Wilcox isn’t optimistic that anything will be done about DeSantis events he believes are “blurring the lines.”
Wilcox told the Sentinel, “I guess I just better get used to it here in Florida because I don’t know what the solution is other than the Legislature trying to rein it in, which I don’t see happening…. It’s just a wholesale blending of campaigning with his public service, and you’re supposed to keep the two things separate. I’m sure it’s happened in the past with other governors, but this governor seems to really embrace the use of public dollars to aid his campaigning.”
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