Gov. DeSantis: FL pension board pressured Twitter to OK Elon Musk’s purchase offer

‘If this is politics, we’re going to hold you accountable’

By: - April 25, 2022 7:51 pm

Twitter headquarters in San Francisco, shown with a projection by protestors on Feb. 11 2017. Credit: Mutante via Wikmedia Commons

Gov. Ron DeSantis has praised Elon Musk’s $44 billion takeover of Twitter Inc., OK’d Monday by the company’s board subject to shareholder approval, as a “blow for free speech.”

The governor, who has targeted social media companies in the past for alleged discrimination against conservative voices, said during a news conference Monday that the state had contacted the Twitter board to weigh in on Musk’s offer.

Specifically, Florida’s State Board of Administration, which oversees more than $200 billion in the state’s retirement system and other funds. DeSantis is the chair; the two other officials on the state board are Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and Attorney General Ashley Moody.

According to DeSantis, “Last week, they [the State Board of Administration] sent a letter to the [Twitter] board of directors just saying, ‘Look, Elon Musk is putting a very good offer on the table, and you’d better have a good business reason why you’re not doing it because, if this is politics, we’re going to hold you accountable.”

DeSantis did not provide the letter at the news conference.

The board accepted Musk’s offer on Monday of $54.20 in cash for each Twitter share, a 38 percent premium over the price before Musk revealed his stake in the company a few weeks ago, according to reporting by CNN and other news sources.

Pensions & Investments, owned by Crain Communications Inc., reported Monday that the State Board of Administration “will vote 808,093 Twitter shares at the company’s annual meeting of shareholders on May 25.”

CFO Patronis said in a statement:

“This acquisition is both a win for free speech and a win for Florida’s pension system. With Elon now in full control of the company, I will continue my campaign of attracting Twitter to Florida. While I do believe Elon has the right intentions, he will be battling a culture that lives, works and plays in San Francisco, which is the epicenter of wokeness, groupthink and speech codes. No doubt, Elon’s pro-freedom sentiments, as well as Twitter’s margins, would benefit with a move to the Sunshine State. We have no income tax, we love freedom, and we believe in public safety. With Elon at the helm, Florida and Twitter would be a match made in heaven.”

Musk, the multibillionaire founder of Tesla and SpaceX, has indicated he’d like to see fewer restrictions on speech on the platform. Critics fear that means more hate speech and disinformation from sources including Donald Trump, kicked off Twitter for spreading lies about the 2020 presidential election.

Especially as the 2022 midterm and 2024 presidential elections approach.

Taking the company private would free it of much of the regulatory scrutiny public companies fall under.

“My hope is that, with Elon Musk taking this private, he’s going to open it up and allow people be able to speak,” DeSantis said.

“There’s a bunch of other platforms, but I think this is a blow for free speech. And, I can tell you just from the shareholders’ perspective … we are 100 percent supportive of what the board of directors did to accept Elon Musk’s offer,” he said.

DeSantis pushed through a law last year (SB 7072) allowing users to sue in state courts and collect as much as $100,000 for every day that a site kicks them off, deleted a post, or uses its algorithms to limit exposure to their posts.

Penalties for “deplatforming” — banishing — statewide political candidates would run as high as $250,000; for other candidates, they’d be $25,000 per day. The state’s attorney general could seek those amounts through lawsuits filed under Florida’s Unfair Trade Practices Act.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle in Tallahassee later ruled the law an unconstitutional restriction on free speech and enjoined its enforcement. The case is now before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

Correction: This story has been changed to correct the purchase price of Twitter.

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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. He began his career covering the Florida Capitol for United Press International. More recently, he wrote for Florida Politics.