Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s far-right agenda in the state legislature should make clear to anyone paying attention that Florida is being governed by a partisan extremist. This year alone, the governor and his right-wing allies forced local governments and police to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement; legalized arming some teachers and defunding our public schools; and restricted people with past felony convictions the right to vote unless they pay what amounts to a “poll tax” (although this is being challenged in the courts).
Floridians should not be surprised that Governor DeSantis is now rushing to defend Trump against consequences for his criminal behavior. DeSantis is now firing off fundraising email blasts encouraging donations to the newly launched “Presidential Protection Fund.”
“Now that Democrats are officially moving to impeach our duly elected president, my duty to protect him isn’t over,” DeSantis wrote in the fundraising mailer. “As Governor of Florida, I want the President to know that we have his back in this fight 100%.”
DeSantis not only shares Trump’s ideology, but as photographs recently uncovered from his election victory party revealed, he is also under similar scrutiny.
The scandal first surfaced when the public learned that Rudy Giuliani associates Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas — who were indicted (and pleaded not guilty) for allegedly circumventing federal campaign finance laws to funnel foreign and dark money to political candidates in exchange for influence — had contributed $50,000 to DeSantis’s campaign last year and more than $20,000 to Republican Sen. Rick Scott.
Initially, this was addressed with typical silence from DeSantis and a vague statement from his spokesperson, Helen Aguirre Ferre, claiming that DeSantis “does not have a relationship with these individuals.”
But that was soon called into question, when a few days later, 2018 footage surfaced showing DeSantis hugging both Fruman and Parnas amid a sea of onlookers and cameras.
Since then, Aguirre Ferre has claimed that the event was open to the public and implied that the two men sort of wandered into close proximity to the governor, but photographs clearly show Parnas wearing an event badge that says “official guest” and the two standing next to DeSantis as reporters ask questions and take photographs.
Unable to deny this, DeSantis finally told reporters that he did indeed know Parnas and had some sort of relationship with him, saying, “I didn’t know the other guy as much, but this was a guy who was at Republican National Committee functions, Trump Victory functions. He was at a lot of these things.”
Shortly after, it was revealed that Parnas accompanied DeSantis on a string of events in the closing moments of the 2018 gubernatorial campaign season. The Virginia attorney representing Parnas said, “if he was in the pictures,” then Parnas likely flew with DeSantis on his campaign plane.
It’s pretty hypocritical for a guy who ran a gubernatorial campaign smearing his opponent for corruption to be engaging in this swampy and disingenuous behavior. Unfortunately, DeSantis has a track record of questionable and unethical practices.
After all, this recent fiasco follows a scandal in which the Tampa Bay Times revealed documents outlining what basically constitutes a menu of different options special interests can pay to receive face time with DeSantis.
Per the memo, golfing with DeSantis could cost between $25,000 to $100,000, depending on the size of the crowd. A regular meeting could cost a lobbyist between $25,000 to $250,000, depending on its length. A dinner event would cost $150,000.
This is peddling influence for money and it’s corruption, plain and simple.
Trump just came under heavy criticism for putting up his financially struggling National Doral Miami resort as the host location for the G7 summit that’s coming up next year. That is also corruption: a head of state forcing an international event to be held at one of his properties so he can make a profit. Fortunately, Trump pulled his resort as a hosting site after receiving intense bipartisan criticism.
We were warned during Florida’s 2018 gubernatorial election that while in Congress, DeSantis spent more than $145,000 in taxpayer money for travel, including trips to appear on Fox News that helped to elevate his profile to run for governor.
As some people say, the fish rots from the head down. DeSantis has proven to be Trump’s acolyte and accomplice in Florida in terms of enacting his extremist agenda. He is now proving himself to be as corrupt as his mentor in the White House.