Trump Backers File Ethics Complaint Against DeSantis

March 15, 2023

Members of a PAC supporting former President Trump have filed an ethics complaint against fellow Republican Ron DeSantis, accusing the Florida Governor of violating state ethics and election laws by waging a “shadow presidential campaign.”

The Make America Great Again Inc. PAC on Wednesday filed a 15-page complaint asking the Florida Commission on Ethics to investigate whether pro-DeSantis super PACs, the governor’s “personally lucrative book tour” and a wave of state-level contributions are among violations that are “unlawful because they serve his personal political objectives, are in furtherance of his personal financial gain at the expense of Florida taxpayers, and are intended to influence his official decision to resign from office.” 

DeSantis has not yet announced his intentions to run for President in 2024, but his team has been actively preparing for 2024 and has reportedly identified potential staff in early primary states such as Iowa and New Hampshire. On Friday DeSantis spoke at an education event in Iowa’s capital city, Des Moines.

Trump announced his reelection bid in November. In his first speech in Iowa on Monday, Trump went on the offensive directly against DeSantis, accusing the governor of wanting to cut Social Security and Medicare, and comparing him to the GOP’s defeated 2012 Presidential candidate—and vocal Trump critic—Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah.

However, the PAC’s ethics complaint is the first time that Trump supporters have elevated the campaign rivalry to a legal battle.

“Adding this to the list of frivolous and politically motivated attacks—it’s inappropriate to use state ethics for partisan purposes,” said Taryn Fenske, DeSantis’ communications director.

DeSantis appointed five of the nine members on the commission the Trump PAC has asked to investigate him. But if they were to find DeSantis in violation of campaign ethics, theoretically they could slap him with fines, public censure, ballot disqualification, or even removal from office or impeachment.

In recent polling, both Trump and DeSantis lead in the GOP race for the party’s 2024 nomination. A CNN poll released Tuesday finds 40% of Republicans surveyed chose Trump as their nominee while 36% chose DeSantis. Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is in a third-place tie with former Vice President Pence at 6%.

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