Unidentified Sponsor for Ron DeSantis' Overseas Trip Sparks Speculation and Lack of Transparency
TALLAHASSEE, Fla- In late February, a private jet linked to the Fontainebleau Hotel's company flew from Tallahassee to Newark ahead of Governor Ron DeSantis' scheduled appearance on Staten Island. On the same day, a separate private jet owned by a central Florida developer flew from Newark to Philadelphia to Chicago before reaching Tallahassee, coinciding with the governor's visit to Pennsylvania and Illinois.
The question arises as to who covered the costs of these flights. While the governor's office denies any use of taxpayer funds for these flights in connection with DeSantis' three-city visit, a spokesperson associated with the governor's political operation declined to comment. Furthermore, the governor's political committee campaign finance report for February contains no record of such expenses.
During the first quarter, the state Republican Party incurred travel expenses, which included commercial airlines and seemingly chartered flights in January and March. However, there is no evidence that the governor's trip in February was a gift from the party.
In February, when asked about DeSantis' trips to New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia, the party executive director did not respond. Recent flight tracking records show that a private chartered jet made stops in Austin, Texas, Japan, South Korea, Israel, and London before ultimately ending up in Tallahassee over the weekend, which corresponds with the governor's recent movements.
It has been previously reported that this trip is being funded by private donations to Enterprise Florida, a public-private economic development agency that is about to be dissolved by the Legislature. Despite this, a representative from Enterprise Florida has not addressed inquiries about the use of a chartered jet, which is likely to be significantly expensive, for DeSantis' travel. Additionally, the agency has not provided any information about the final cost of the trip.
During Monday's House floor session, State Representative Jeff Holcomb, who sponsored a bill aimed at protecting Governor DeSantis' travel records that were funded by taxpayers, implied that information regarding who funded the governor's travels, such as book promotion tours or campaign trips, would still be accessible. These book tour events were coordinated by a non-profit organization, which is not required to disclose the majority of its records.
Proponents of the proposed legislation, which would extend to the travel records of other high-ranking state officials, argue that it is necessary for security reasons. Governor DeSantis, who received inquiries about the bill on Monday, indicated that he did not recommend it, but also acknowledged that he receives numerous threats.
The legislation that is soon to be presented to the governor includes provisions that extend beyond future expenditures. Specifically, it seeks to safeguard records pertaining to all prior trips from public scrutiny. Proponents of this measure contend that doing so will prevent the disclosure of travel patterns. However, the bill's language is exceedingly broad, which raises the possibility that the state could withhold even basic details, such as the date and location of state jet usage. Notably, this development occurs as the governor prepares for an anticipated presidential bid.