Gov. Ron DeSantis. Credit: DeSantis campaign
Gov. Ron DeSantis’ former state political action committee has transferred $82.5 million into a federal super PAC, despite a complaint from a watchdog group about the legality of those campaign finance maneuvers, according to campaign records.
Nevertheless, the DeSantis campaign for the 2024 presidential race plans to spend that $82.5 million, potentially down to its last dollar.
The watchdog group contends that the transfer of tens of millions of campaign donations from a state political committee to a federal Super PAC violates campaign finance law. That group, called the Campaign Legal Center, ultimately filed a complaint alleging just that with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) in late May.
A spokesperson for the Campaign Legal Center told the Florida Phoenix Tuesday that they may not receive a response from the FEC “until a year or so, if not later.”
The Florida Phoenix wrote earlier about the campaign maneuvers used to put state money from Florida into a federal pot for DeSantis’ presidential race.
The issue began when DeSantis raised more than $200 million last year for his gubernatorial reelection bid, using his state PAC called “Friends of Ron DeSantis.”
Of that state PAC, at least $60 million was left over after DeSantis easily defeated Democrat Charlie Crist in the race for governor last November.
But instead of shutting down that PAC – now that DeSantis no longer was raising funds for his gubernatorial campaign — the governor kept on accepting financial contributions into the “Friends of Ron DeSantis” state political action committee.
That piqued the interest of campaign finance groups such as the Campaign Legal Center, who said that state political committees can’t legally transfer those funds into presidential super PACS, as federal super PACS are required to act independently and not act in coordination with a campaign to receive unlimited contributions.
DeSantis then began edging away from his own state political committee last month as it became evident that the state PAC would be transferring those funds to a federal pot of campaign dollars.
On May 8, state Sen. Blaise Ingoglia was appointed as chair of “Friends of Ron DeSantis,” according to state Division of Elections documents. Then a week later, on May 15, the committee’s name was then changed to “Empower Parents PAC,” showing further independence away from DeSantis.
According to the Florida Division of Elections website, Ingoglia, the chairman of the state political committee called Empower Parents PAC, then informed the Florida Department of State on May 30 that it was no longer organized and operating as a Florida political committee, and that it be terminated “effectively immediately.”
After that, the $82.5 million was transferred on May 31 to a federal super PAC called Never Back Down, which was created earlier this year to act as an independent organization supporting a DeSantis presidential campaign. The information about $82.5 million came from the Empower Parents PAC website. Florida’s Division of Elections shows that the Empower Parents PAC indeed was closed by May 30. And at that time, it didn’t show the $82.5 million in the state’s campaign finance records.
In addition to the federal FEC complaint, the transfer of political contributions from a state political fund to a federal account had previously been prohibited in Florida, as per a handbook issued by the Florida Division of Elections going back as far as 2016.
But as NBC News recently reported, in the most recent handbook from the Florida Department of State published in March, the handbook now advises that such transfers are allowed, citing the 2010 Citizens United ruling made by the U.S. Supreme Court.
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