Gov. DeSantis, FL Cabinet fly out Sat. on 80-person trip to Israel: Who’s paying? Who’s going? His office won’t say

By: - May 20, 2019 2:17 pm

Gov. Ron DeSantis, the Cabinet, and a crew of 80 people will start their trip in Tel Aviv. Photo by Miguel Faber, Wikimedia Commons

Five days before Gov. Ron DeSantis and an entourage of as many as 80 people undertake a trade mission to Israel, his office has yet to release more than a bare-bones itinerary.

DeSantis and his entourage are scheduled to leave Saturday, May 25, on a trip the governor’s office says is designed to promote Florida tourism,  cement ties with the Jewish state, and learn more about how the Israelis handle water resources and technology. DeSantis  said that about 75 people, including business figures and state lawmakers, would attend, but last week put the number at as many as 80. The group is scheduled to return on May 31.

The itinerary includes an official meeting of the Florida Cabinet. DeSantis’ office has not yet answered questions about who will accompany the governor, what the trip will cost taxpayers, or any additional details. The Florida Phoenix filed a public records request seeking information on April 16 but the governor’s office hasn’t supplied it.

We have learned more about Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried’s plans, however.

Fried – the first Jewish woman to serve on the Florida Cabinet – will arrive a few days in advance of the main party, according to Franco Ripple, her communications director. Her itinerary will highlight women in venture capital, disaster relief, and – yes – medical marijuana.

“She stated during her campaign that her first trade mission would be to Israel, and the Cabinet trip presented an opportunity to combine the two for maximum efficiency and taxpayer savings,” Ripple said via email.

Attorney General Ashley Moody plans to fly commercial with one aide – economy class, press aide Lauren Schenone said. Moody expects there will be a video interface to allow participation by Floridians not able to make the 6,000-mile-plus journey. Again, it’s unclear how that will work.

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis’ office said in a written statement that he plans to fly commercially, accompanied by one staff member.

“We have not yet received an agenda for the Cabinet meeting. As more information is made available, we hope to update the public and media on the CFO’s itinerary during this important trip,” deputy communications director Devin Galleta said in an email.

As for Fried, the former medical marijuana lobbyist has proven an ardent booster for that industry. She appointed the first state director for cannabis in February.

Fried spokesman Franco said she  will visit a “women-driven venture capital firm”; an Israeli government research organization; an agricultural drone technology company; a kibbutz specializing in dairy technology; a hydroponics farm; and “companies specializing in medical marijuana, blue green algae solutions, and disaster relief and mitigation.”

Additionally, he said, Fried will “host roundtable discussions on women in agriculture, medical marijuana and cannabis, and agriculture technology.”

“The trip is an opportunity to strengthen the Florida-Israel relationship, and to bring home to Florida ideas and innovations from one of the world’s leading nations on technology and research,” Ripple wrote.

See previous Phoenix coverage: Gov. DeSantis, FL Cabinet fly out Sat. on 80-person trip to Israel: Who’s paying? Who’s going? His office won’t say; Gov. DeSantis and Cabinet are holding a meeting in Israel in 4 weeks. But still, no details on what it will cost and what they will be doing; Governor’s office releases bare-bones agenda for May 25 Israel trip; Public may be able to “attend” May FL Cabinet meeting in Israel via video, Attorney General Moody says; South Fla legislators joining Gov. DeSantis, Cabinet, 75 others on Israel trip May 25; Gov. DeSantis talks about his God, hypes upcoming Florida Cabinet meeting in Israel; One lawmaker says she will pay her own way for Israel trip with Gov. DeSantis and Cabinet.

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Michael Moline
Michael Moline

Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal.