Ron DeSantis' former employer received millions in state funding: report

Ron DeSantis' former employer received millions in state funding: report
Image via Gage Skidmore.

A new report is shedding light on how Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ (R) administration directed millions of dollars in state funding to two law firms he's connected to, including his old employer.

The accounting records, which have been reviewed by The Daily Beast, appear to show a conflict of interest highlighting a money trail of the law firms' affiliation with the Republican governor and how they also supported his gubernatorial campaign.

The Daily Beast's Roger Sollenberger noted that two law firms named in the report are Holland & Knight and Holtzman Vogel PLLC, described as a "Republican election law powerhouse."

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"Holland & Knight—where DeSantis worked as a civil litigator before dropping out to run for Congress in 2012—was roped up in a scandal regarding political pressure from the governor’s office to scuttle a 2020 lawsuit against the state," Sollenberger notes. "The same firm was also handed a contract to defend Florida in a major felons’ voting rights case that has in recent weeks resurfaced in a viral controversy about voter scare tactics."

He added, "The second firm, Republican election law powerhouse Holtzman Vogel PLLC, has received more than $4 million in contracts from Florida agencies over the last year, mostly tied to voting rights cases. It has no previous contracts listed in the Florida Accountability Contract Tracking System."

According to Sollenberger, DeSantis' old employer was a dominant corporate source for campaign funding from 2011-2018.

"According to data with the Center for Responsive Politics, DeSantis’ old firm of Holland & Knight was the third-largest corporate source of campaign funds during his 2011-2018 congressional tenure," he wrote. "The company contributed a total $44,300 in employee and PAC donations—more than Koch Industries—and threw another $50,000 behind DeSantis’ 2018 gubernatorial bid."

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The report went on to show the evolution of Holland & Knight's contract revenue from the state. Sollenberger added, "Until that year, Holland & Knight had pocketed only $2,750 in contracts with the state of Florida, per FACTS data. But in 2018, the firm developed what called 'a new revenue stream'—'defending state agencies and DeSantis in lawsuits, sometimes involving controversial legislation.'”

As a result, the firm "raked in nearly $3 million between 2018 and 2020 while defending the state in three legal matters: a lawsuit over inadequate foster home care (which the state settled), the voting rights for felons case, and a 2020 suit regarding mail-in voting restrictions," according to the report. "All that work fell to one Holland & Knight lawyer, who served as outside counsel for the state government. But when he left the firm in Aug. 2020, the contracts dried up. State data shows Holland & Knight has signed no new contracts with state agencies since then."

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