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A super PAC closely aligned with former President Donald Trump is demanding Florida ethics investigators probe whether Gov. Ron DeSantis’ recent political activity is violating state law.
In a 15-page letter to the Florida Commission on Ethics, Make America Great Again Inc. accuses DeSantis of operating a “shadow presidential campaign” and says the Republican governor should have to resign from office under a state law that prohibits people from holding elected office while seeking another. The letter, which a spokesperson said will be sent Wednesday, argues that DeSantis’ book tour, ongoing fundraising and reported efforts to recruit operatives for his likely presidential campaign all suggest that he is a de facto candidate for president while also serving as governor.
MAGA Inc., also accuses DeSantis of enriching himself through his book tour and benefiting from financial support intended to influence his decision to run – allegations that echo criticisms Trump has faced since he first ascended to the political scene. It also notes that several political committees attempting to recruit DeSantis to run are already raising money on his behalf, including one started by Ken Cuccinelli, a former Trump administration official.
The contents of the planned letter were first reported by NBC News.
“Adding this to the list of frivolous and politically motivated attacks,” DeSantis spokeswoman Taryn Fenske said in a statement. “It’s inappropriate to use state ethics complaints for partisan purposes.”
The letter is an obvious escalation by Trump’s allies in their efforts to slow his top rival for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination. While DeSantis has not yet announced he intends to run, his likely entrance into the race is highly anticipated and polls suggest he is a credible contender to stop Trump, who lately has intensified his attack on his one-time political ally.
Less clear, though, is whether MAGA Inc.’s list of accusations will actually lead to any action against DeSantis.
The state ethics commission is notoriously slow-moving in reviewing potential violations. Once received, a complaint would first instigate a review by the commission’s attorneys to see if the allegations would fall within its jurisdiction. Then it would go to an investigator followed by a probable cause hearing. The commission meets just eight times a year and its board is entirely composed of people appointed by the Florida governor and state legislature. Most infractions, if validated, result in a nominal fine.
By the time the matter is resolved, Florida lawmakers are likely to change to the state’s “resign to run” law to clarify that DeSantis can serve as governor while campaigning for the GOP nomination for president.
Nevertheless, MAGA Inc. has laid out how it intends to turn DeSantis’ political fundraising and activity against him as he lays the groundwork for a campaign. Trump’s allies raise issue with the $12 million DeSantis has raised through a state political committee – much of it in the form of seven-figure donations from wealthy donors – that is likely to be shifted into a federal committee, CNN previously reported.
“The Make America Great Again movement was birthed to stop career politicians who use public service to amass personal wealth and power,” MAGA Inc., said in a statement on Wednesday. “An investigation by the Florida Ethics Commission must occur as soon as possible.”