The Phoenix Flyer

DeSantis hobnobs with Florida’s corporate elite at The Breakers in Palm Beach

By: - May 9, 2019 2:42 pm

The Breakers in Palm Beach

On the day after a raucous GOP rally with President Trump, Gov. Ron DeSantis is visiting private Christian schools promoting Florida’s new tuition voucher program. Tonight, he’ll mingle with business titans at Palm Beach’s The Breakers, Henry Flagler’s pleasure palace for the super wealthy.

DeSantis will confer in Palm Beach with members of the Florida Council of 100, an elite group of executives from agribusiness, utilities, development, Florida law (and lobbying) firms, and other powerful industries. The governor’s daily schedule shows him going to The Breakers for the council’s spring general membership conference in The Circle, a dining room featuring Renaissance murals and 30-foot frescoed ceilings.

Gov. Farris Bryant organized the Council of 100 in 1961 “to provide advice to him on key Florida issues from a business perspective,” according to the council’s website.

The board includes the cream of corporate Florida, including Lee Arnold Jr. of Colliers International Florida and David Duda of A. Duda & Sons, both big agriculture companies; Thomas duPont, publisher of the duPont Registry, a classified ad service for super expensive houses, cars, boats, and more; Steven Halverson of The Haskell Co., an architecture, engineering and construction firm; John Ramil, the retired chief executive of TECO Energy, Eric Silagy, head of Florida Power & Light; and former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, now chairman of the Gunster law firm.

“The Council works closely with the governor and the state agencies, the Legislature, the judicial branch, federal leaders and officials, and other private organizations,” the website says.

Government officials – including commissioners of education, university system chancellors, heads of Enterprise Florida, and school district superintendents – have advised the council over the years.

Among its accomplishments, the council pressed for expanding Florida’s university system during the 1960s; curtailing union rights during the ’70s; pushing business development in the ‘80s (including Spaceport Florida); and creating Enterprise Florida during the ‘90s. The group founded the Florida Justice Reform Institute during the 2000s, which seeks limits on people’s right to sue.

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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.