A political committee aligned with former President Trump was planning to file an ethics complaint against Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday, accusing him of violating state laws and demanding that he be removed from office, fined, or censured, according to NBC News.
In the 15-page complaint to the Florida Commission on Ethics acquired in draft form by NBC News, the Make America Great Again PAC claims DeSantis is “already a de facto candidate for President of the United States under federal election laws” due to his book tour, reports of his putting together a campaign staff, and his affiliated committee taking in millions of dollars this year.
The Commission of Ethics would not confirm or deny that the complaint was received, citing confidentiality laws.
“Adding this to the list of frivolous and politically motivated attacks,” governor’s office spokesman Bryan Griffin said in response. “It’s inappropriate to use state ethics complaints for partisan purposes.”
The complaint cited the state’s resign to run law, which legislators are considering amending during this session to make it clear that DeSantis would not have to quit as governor to run in the presidential primaries in 2024.
“Governor DeSantis’s failure to declare his candidacy is no mere oversight; it is a coordinated effort specifically designed for him to accept, as unethical gifts, illegal campaign contributions and certain personal benefits,” the filing states.
The filing also pointed to the national publicity DeSantis is receiving for his book, “The Courage to Be Free: Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Revival,” which brought him to early GOP primary and caucus states Nevada and Iowa last week.
The complaint cites DeSantis meeting with “influential figures” and his team “vetting operatives” in key primary states; the creation last month of a new committee, Never Back Down, designed to urge DeSantis to run for president; and DeSantis’ associated political committee, Friends of Ron DeSantis, taking in nearly $12 million in contributions this year alone.
The complaint argues that DeSantis violated four state statutes, including bans on solicitation and acceptance of gifts, gifts from political committees, and illegal lobbying payments, as well as the misuse of his public position and a ban on conflicting employment or contractual relationships.
Ron Filipkowski, an attorney and GOP operative, said that some in the DeSantis camp have interpreted that the resign-to-run law “doesn’t apply until you secure the nomination. ‘Qualify’ is the word in the statute. However, the legislative history is clear that they mean when you file to run.”
Any proposed amendment in the Legislature would clarify that DeSantis would not have to resign if he files to run in the primaries, he said.
“Now their plan is not to repeal the statute, but to amend it by adding a definition of ‘qualify’ to mean securing the party’s nomination,” Filipkowski said.
Trump has been repeatedly attacking DeSantis since entering the presidential race in November, despite DeSantis not officially announcing a run yet.
Trump has blasted “Ron DeSanctimonious” for everything from his loyalty to his COVID shutdown in 2020, and his latest attacks have been on DeSantis’ votes on Social Security as a congressman.
“He also fought against Social Security,” Trump said at an event in Iowa. “… That’s a bad one. A lot of people don’t know that. But I think they’d been finding out over the last four weeks, one of the reasons that we’re zooming in the polls, perhaps. … Maybe it’s other things, too.”
DeSantis has not fired back at the same level of vitriol as Trump.
“He used to say how great of a governor I was,” he told Fox News last month. “Then I win a big victory and all of a sudden, you know, he had different opinions. So you can take that for what it’s worth.”
DeSantis also was criticized by Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, for his written comments to Fox News host Tucker Carlson that the Russian-Ukrainian War was “a territorial dispute” and that protecting Ukraine was not in the U.S. national interest.
“It’s not a territorial dispute in the sense that any more than it would be a territorial dispute if the United States decided that it wanted to invade Canada or take over the Bahamas,” Rubio told the conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.
Trump, who told Fox News “both sides are weary and ready to make a deal” which would allow Russia to “take over” parts of Ukraine, gloated to reporters on Monday that DeSantis was copying him.
“[He’s] following what I am saying,” Trump said, according to CNN. “It is a flip-flop. … Whatever I want, he wants.”
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