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How Ron DeSantis Deceptively Raised and Weaponized Millions Of Dollars From Trump Supporters To Change FL Election Laws, Pay Off FL's Speaker of The House, & Attack Donald Trump
All you have to do is follow the money to see Florida Republican Party officials and members of the state Legislature had their palms greased in exchange for their support of Ron DeSantis's campaign.
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Presidential campaigns are expensive. That remains an undeniable fact. And what also remains a fact is that fundraising numbers are very easily manipulated and distorted as a way to make a candidate appear stronger than they actually are, and to move money around in an effort to conceal money trails.
As the 2024 GOP Presidential Primary continues to heat up, both Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis are competing for fundraising dollars from a limited pool of GOP donors.
When Ron DeSantis ran for Re-election as Governor of Florida in 2022, he raised a substantial amount of money. During his 2022 reelection campaign, DeSantis was able to raise more funds than any gubernatorial candidate in history, breaking Gubernatorial fundraising records with a haul of nearly $200 Million.
However, DeSantis only spent about $105 million dollars on his 2022 re-election, which left him with an additional $95 million to “sit on”. It was always very apparent when DeSantis was running for re-election that he didn’t need $200 million for his campaign, which led many to speculate that he was saving the surplus of campaign cash for a 2024 Presidential run.
There is no denying that Ron DeSantis is only Governor of Florida thanks to President Trump endorsing his nearly failed campaign against Democrat darling Andrew Gillum in 2018. DeSantis himself has acknowledged that he wouldn’t be Governor today if it wasn’t for Donald Trump’s endorsement, as it was Trump supporters who pulled DeSantis across the finish line in both 2018 and 2022. Thus, it is no surprise that majority of the $200 Million in campaign funds that DeSantis and his team raised ahead of November 2022 came from MAGA supporters who were deceived and falsely led to believe that Ron DeSantis needed their money so that he could be Governor of Florida for another four years. However, it is now obvious that DeSantis never intended to serve all four years of his term, and that he was raising more money than he actually needed to win re-election so that he could launch a Presidential campaign and still receive taxpayer money via his salary as Governor of Florida.
Since November 2022, DeSantis has urged state legislators in Florida, as well as officials within that Florida GOP to change Florida election laws and guidelines, including Florida’s Resign To Run law and the Florida Political Committee handbook, which is issued by the Florida Department of State.
In May 2023, DeSantis urged the Florida Department of State to change the section that pertains to how campaign funds can be used and transferred between different entities. It is worth noting that the Florida Department of State is overseen by Secretary of State Cord Byrd, who was appointed by Governor Ron DeSantis as Florida's 37th Secretary of State on May 13, 2022, nearly one year prior to DeSantis asking Byrd to change the laws so that DeSantis could transfer millions of dollars from his Gubernatorial PAC to a Presidential PAC. The primary duty of the Secretary of State of Florida is to oversee that state’s elections and election integrity.
However, it is unclear how it is “ethical” or “election integrity” for the Governor of Florida and his hand picked Secretary of State to be changing Florida election and campaign finance laws in an effort to give more centralized power over Florida’s election process to Ron DeSantis, who is not only Governor of Florida, but will also likely be on the ballot in March 2024 for the Florida GOP Presidential Primary.
DeSantis and Byrd’s altering of the Florida Political Committee handbook is significant, as it covers the specific kind of transferring of funds that DeSantis’s allies are depending on for the sake of financially supporting his presidential campaign. The rule changes by DeSantis and Byrd has already prompted The Campaign Legal Center, a watchdog group, to file an official complaint with the Federal Election Commission regarding the legality of nearly $83 million of donations being transferred from DeSantis’s state PAC to his Presidential PAC for the sake of attacking President Trump’ 2024 campaign.
“The complaint alleges that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has violated federal campaign finance laws by directing or transferring over $80 million from his state PAC, “Friends of Ron DeSantis,” to the super PAC Never Back Down.”
“Friends of Ron DeSantis, a state PAC based in Florida that DeSantis established in 2018, and used to raise over $225 million through May 2023, has reportedly directed or transferred over $80 million to Never Back Down, a federal super PAC reportedly organized to serve as the primary spending vehicle in support of the Florida governor’s presidential campaign. Never Back Down has already spent over $944,000 to promote his presidential candidacy. The Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) has, for over 20 years, prohibited federal candidates like DeSantis from spending “soft money” in connection with a federal election because such funds are not subject to federal campaign finance laws that prevent corruption and require transparency in our elections.
As the complaint explains, DeSantis became a candidate well before his public announcement on May 24, 2023, and was therefore bound by the FECA provisions prohibiting candidates and the entities they establish, finance, maintain, or control from spending soft money in connection with federal elections. As a result, Friends of Ron DeSantis — recently renamed “Empower Parents PAC” as part of a clear effort to distance the group from DeSantis — brazenly violated the law when it transferred this colossal sum to a federal super PAC.
The FEC is responsible for enforcing federal campaign finance laws and should investigate whether Governor DeSantis and the Friends of Ron DeSantis state PAC violated the law by making this transfer.”
Previous versions of the Florida handbook stated, “A Florida political committee must use its funds solely for Florida political activities.” The version for the 2024 cycle, which was modified by Florida Secretary of State Byrd at DeSantis’s request, has been changed to say, “A Florida political committee may make contributions to an out-of-state political entity that engages solely in non-coordinated expenditures.” This update was published in March 2023, the same exact month the Never Back Down PAC was created for the sake of getting Ron DeSantis elected as President, and just two months before Ron DeSantis officially filed paperwork with the FEC on May 24, 2023 to launch his 2024 presidential bid.
Since the updated guidelines to the Florida Political Committee handbook were released, and the same month he filed to run for President, Ron DeSantis transferred roughly $83 dollars from his state based Political Action Committee to the Never Back Down Super PAC. The transfer of funds from DeSantis’s previous state PAC to his Presidential PAC equates to roughly 64% of the total $130 million that Never Back Down claimed to have raised ahead of the release of their first FEC filing report on July 1, 2023. However, given the fact that $83 million of the $130 million Never Back Down claimed to have raised was raised prior to November 2022, and was not donated by donors with the intention of being used against Donald Trump in a primary, it is incredibly deceptive for DeSantis’s campaign and PAC to claim they raised a collective $150 million since DeSantis launched his Presidential campaign.
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It is fair to assume that many donors who donated to Ron DeSantis’s state PAC in 2022 supported DeSantis as Governor, but not as a Presidential candidate against Donald Trump. Making this even shadier, none of those donors ever consented to their donation money being transferred to a SuperPac and used against Donald Trump’s 2024 campaign.
As a popular Governor, DeSantis was routinely viewed by many as a GOP favorite for the 2028 Republican Presidential nomination before he decided to commit political suicide by challenging Donald Trump for the 2024 nomination. Had donors known DeSantis’s true intentions, many of his 2020 donors would have withheld their donations had they known their hard earned money would be spent on anti-Trump attack ads.
Political Committees are subject to oversight by the Department of State in Florida. Florida’s Secretary of State Cord Byrd is widely viewed as a DeSantis ally and was appointed by the Governor in May 2022. Byrd’s wife, Esther Byrd, was also appointed by Governor DeSantis in 2022, and she now sits on the State Board of Education.
Along with using his own appointed Secretary of State to change Florida election laws, it appears that DeSantis and his allies also attempted to cover up their actions and conceal the transfer of funds from the public in an effort to minimize scrutiny for DeSantis. Prior to running for President, DeSantis’s State PAC, where the $83 million was originally parked, was previously named “Friends of Ron DeSantis”. However, just weeks before he officially declared as a Presidential candidate, “Friends of Ron DeSantis” was given a new name. According to Florida campaign finance records, the PAC’s name was changed on May 8, 2023 to the “Empower Parents PAC”.
Additionally, current GOP state Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, who used to serve as Chairman of the Florida GOP, took over as the Empower Parents PACs chairperson. This was done in an attempt to create the false impression that DeSantis gave the money to a pro-parental rights PAC, when in reality, the name of his already existing PAC was simply changed to a name that didn’t have his name in it so FEC records would show a transfer of funds from “Empower Parents PAC” to the Never Back Down PAC. As a result of the name change, “Friends of Ron DeSantis” can no longer be found in the Division of Elections website.
The PAC, now named Empower Parents PAC, was quickly shuddered upon completion of the transfer of the nearly $83 million in funds to the pro Desantis Super PAC Never Back Down. On May 30, 2023, just six days after DeSantis filed to run for President, the “Empower Parents PAC” filed paperwork with the Florida Department of State, and Blaise Ingoglia sent a hand signed letter to the Board of Elections in Florida requesting that the Division of Elections in Florida disband the Empower Parents PAC, which was never created to empower parents, but rather as a vehicle to conceal an unethical transfer of $83 million in political donations from DeSantis’s Gubernatorial State PAC to the national, anti-Trump, Never Back Down pro-DeSantis Presidential super PAC, on May 31, 2023, with Ron DeSantis’s permission.
It is worth noting that FL State Senator Blaise Ingoglia lied to voters, and even publicly attacked me when I exposed him in February of 2023 for working with DeSantis to get the Florida Legislature to change Florida’s Resign to Run law. When I reported that he was lying to voters by telling Republicans at the Florida GOP Quarterly meeting in February that the law wasn’t going to be changed, Ingoglia said I didn’t know what I was talking about, and publicly said he wasn’t working against Trump by posting a 7 year old photo with Donald Trump.
However, records seen above that are publicly available on the Florida Division of Elections website is a form of undeniable and indisputable proof that Ingoglia was not only aware of DeSantis’s plans to run for President long before he filed, but he actively participated in DeSantis plan to change Florida election laws and campaign finance laws to conceal the transfer of funds to the Never Back Down PAC. It is worth noting that Ingoglia was also DeSantis’s key ally in the Florida Senate when it came to changing the Resign to Run law so DeSantis could keep his job as Governor and simultaneously run for President on tax payer dime as an absentee Governor.
In fact, archived expenditure reports from “Friends of Ron DeSantis” aka “Empowered Parents PAC” show a plethora of expenses that were made immediately after he won re-election as Governor, which is further evidence that DeSantis always intended to run for President, and never planned on serving a full second term as Governor of Florida.
Along with transferring nearly $83 million to Never Back Down on May 31, just one day after DeSantis’s state PAC filed paperwork to disband, another substantial transfer of funds was made from Ron DeSantis’s state PAC to another newly founded Florida PAC. The PAC formerly known as “Friends of Ron DeSantis” aka Empower Parents PAC transferred the sum of $1 million to a newly formed PAC called “Empower Parents Florida” , which is different than the similarly named “Empower Parents PAC”.
The transfer is indicated on the last page of the “Empower Parents PAC” expenditure report as one of the last transactions made before the PAC was officially disbanded.
Records show the “Empower Parents Florida PAC” was formed on May 8th, 2023, just 16 days before DeSantis filed to run for President, and it is headed by Florida Speaker of the House Paul Renner.
Given that the head of PACS are able to pay themselves a salary, this raises serious ethical questions about whether or not Renner, who eagerly complied with DeSantis’s requests to change Florida’s Resign to Run Law, was paid off with a $1 million bribe for getting the law changed so that DeSantis could run for President and keep his job as Governor of Florida. DeSantis signed the newly changed Florida Resign to Run law on May 24, 2023, the same exact day he filed paperwork to run for President.
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Additionally, the expenditure reports for DeSantis’s state PAC reveal that the Republican Party of Florida, which is supposed to be neutral in a Presidential primary, was paid nearly $44,000 by the PAC, less than three weeks before DeSantis filed to run for President and the PAC was disbanded.
This raises questions about whether or not officials at the Republican Party of Florida were financially bribed and paid off or the sake of supporting Ron DeSantis over Donald Trump. As I have exclusively reported, there are many financial conflicts of interest that exist between the Florida GOP and Ron DeSantis’s campaign. Evan Power, the Vice Chair of Florida GOP, is married to Melissa Power, who is the paid Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of the Ron DeSantis for President Campaign. Florida GOP Chair Christian Ziegler is married to Bridget Ziegler, a school board member in Sarasota, Florida who was appointed to the Reedy Creek Board in Florida by Ron DeSantis in February 2023.
Expenditure Reports from Ron DeSantis’s state PAC, which was deceptively renamed “Empower Parents PAC” just weeks before the funds were transferred to Never Back Down, reveals that the PAC sent $1,000 to Bridget Ziegler, the wife of Florida GOP Chairman Christian Ziegler on July 27, 2022.
There is no denying that the Florida legislature, the Florida Republican Party, Governor Ron DeSantis and his PACs have been illegally coordinating to benefit the Governor’s presidential aspirations. And there is also no denying that they have all made a lot of money doing so! In April of 2023, Florida’s Resign to Run law was changed by the state legislature to allows DeSantis to campaign for President without resigning his position as Governor. DeSantis followed that up by signing legislation that shields his travel and travel expenses from public disclosure, in an effort to conceal the fact that he was operating a shadow Presidential campaign on taxpayer dime before officially filing to run.
The Resign to Run law change was championed by Florida Speaker of the House Paul Renner and Florida State Senator Blaise Ingoglia. Renner and Ingoglia were both officially endorsed by DeSantis during their campaigns in 2022. Renner has since endorsed DeSantis in his 2024 Presidential bid against President Donald Trump.
Ron DeSantis has a history of changing Florida laws for his own benefit. His continued financial entanglement with the Florida GOP is highly unethical and questionable. Additionally, last week, the Florida GOP announced a change of rules for candidates who wish to be on the ballot for the Presidential Primary. One of those changes includes a requirement for all candidates to sign a “loyalty oath”.
DeSantis has weaponized the Florida government and the Republican Party of Florida for the sake of rigging the Florida Republican primary to his own benefit and buying off loyalty from key election and state party officials. If Republican voters are truly focused on combatting the weaponization of Government, they should pay close attention now that DeSantis has made it very clear that just like Joe Biden, DeSantis has no problem bending the rules and enriching himself and his allies at the voter’s expense, so long as the price and longterm payoff is right.
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