As Florida Governor Ron DeSantis launches his bid for the presidency, his administration officials solicit donations from lobbyists and solicit endorsements from lawmakers in the state, blurring the line between his taxpayer-funded office and his political campaign Went.
Reaches from the governor’s office, which usually come to Mr. DeSantis’ campaign staff, were described by two people who said they had been contacted by administration officials and who insisted on anonymity . In at least one case, a member of Mr. DeSantis’ administration sent a text message to a lobbyist that contained a link to his presidential fundraising platform.
NBC News first reported the request to lobbyists.
The people who were contacted spoke on condition of anonymity, discussing the conversation for fear of retribution by the governor’s office, and insisted that government officials not be named so as to avoid revealing their identities .
Representatives for Mr. DeSantis’ office and campaign did not respond to requests for comment.
Mr. DeSantis has not yet signed Florida’s $117 billion budget, over which he holds a line-item veto — meaning he can, with the stroke of the pen, pass the bill sought by lobbyists and legislators in Tallahassee, the capital. He can eliminate spending projects where he has strong control over the Republican-controlled Legislature.
The outreach to lobbyists gave the impression that the donations would be tracked by the governor’s office, according to two people familiar with the matter.
In addition to efforts to drum up support from lobbyists, the main super PAC supporting Mr. DeSantis’ bid announced last week that 99 of Florida’s 113 Republican state legislators had endorsed Mr. DeSantis for president. Several MPs privately stated that they feared he might veto his bills or spending projects if they did not support him. Two said they had been approached by members of the governor’s administration about making endorsements.
As governor, Mr. DeSantis has sought to expand the power of his office and has relied on the specter of political vendettas, bending legislators to do his bidding or fending off primary challenges and corporates like Disney. target with which it collided.
The unusual access to lobbyists and lawmakers highlights the careful line that Mr. DeSantis and his allies must walk as they seek the nation’s highest office while governing the nation’s third-largest state.
Under Florida law, state employees are generally permitted to participate in political campaigns if they do so during their personal time, with their personal equipment, and without reference to their official duties or authority, among other factors. We do.
Ethics experts said the accounts of DeSantis administration officials assisting his campaign deserve further scrutiny — but members of the Florida Commission on Ethics, which looks into allegations of ethical violations by government employees, by Mr. DeSantis and his allies are appointed to the Legislature. ,
“This conduct raises very serious and important questions,” said Anthony V. Alfieri, founding director of the Center for Ethics and Public Service at the University of Miami School of Law.
Florida elections attorney Juan-Carlos Planas said clear boundaries must be maintained between the governor’s executive staff and the political party.
“The government is not perceived to be overly political,” Mr. Planas said. “People should be able to deal with the government knowing that the campaign is a separate entity. When you start blurring the line, it becomes autocratic.”
Mr. DeSantis asked former President Donald J. Trump, who boasts an army of small donors, has made immediate efforts to raise money for his campaign to deal with it. On Thursday, Mr. DeSantis’ campaign said it had raised a record $8.2 million in the first official day of his campaign for the White House. The remarkable dollar amount prompted quiet criticism of his messed-up campaign announcement on Twitter a day earlier.
At least some of the hauling came from Florida lobbyists. Many lobbyists and their clients have projects within the state budget that Mr. DeSantis could choose to veto — giving them a clear incentive to contribute when asked. Several state lobbyists attended a day-long fund-raising session with Mr. DeSantis at the Four Seasons Hotel in Miami on Thursday.
Aided by the phenomenon, called Ron-O-Rama, Mr. DeSantis raised nearly twice as much money as Mr. Trump in the 24 hours following his criminal indictment this year. In 2019, this amount won Joseph R. Broke the previous one-day record of $6.3 million set by Biden Jr.
Mr. DeSantis is also under pressure to wrest key Republican support away from Mr. Trump, who scored an early victory last month by securing the support of a majority of Florida Republicans in Congress.
maggie haberman And patricia mazzi Contributed reporting.