TALLAHASSEE (Fla.) — Officials working for Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration — not his presidential campaign — has been sending text message soliciting contributions to Florida lobbyists for DeSantis’ presidential bid. This breach of tradition has raised ethical questions and legal concerns and left many in the state capitol shocked.
NBC News examined text messages sent by four DeSantis Administration officials, including those in the Governor’s Office and in leadership positions at state agencies. The message asked the recipient to contribute to the Governor’s campaign via a link that tracked who was giving through a “bundle program”.
A Florida lobbyist who has been in the business for many years said, “The bottom line here is that it appears that the administration is keeping track of who gives and they are doing this using state staff.” You are caught in a dilemma. We all know that they will remain in power.
NBC News does not name the staffers who sent text messages, because they could expose lobbyists that received and shared the messages.
DeSantis’ office did not respond to a request for comment. However, an official of the administration acknowledged that they are raising money for the campaign.
In a text, the official of the governor’s office said, “I don’t know what each EOG staffer is doing in their spare time or after-hours, with their First Amendment rights. But I wouldn’t surprise me if they raised more money that lobbyists.” “I (and other staff members) have personally donated.”
In general, staffers in the political sector are responsible for raising funds to support political campaigns. Aides on the official side of things are kept out of these operations.
Legality depends on several factors, such as whether the solicitations were sent from state-owned phones or on state property. An experienced Florida election lawyer said that, even if DeSantis’ aides were fundraising in their own capacity and off government time, there would still be ethical concerns.
The attorney stated that “at a minimum it smells bad, even if the individuals are using their own personal phones at home to contact lobbyists they met on their own, and not in their official capacity as governors.” Anyone paying attention will see that there is a misuse of position here.
The practice still shocked those involved in Florida politics.
NBC News interviewed 10 Republican lobbyists from Florida. All of them said that they could not remember ever being solicited so openly for donations by officials in the administration — especially when the governor is still working on the state’s budget.
This process involves DeSantis using the line-item pen to cut funding for projects in which the lobbyists who are being asked for political money have a professional interest. The majority of lobbyists claimed they were under pressure to donate to the governor’s election campaign.
One lobbyist asked, “What in the world am I supposed do?” I have a lot to say to the DeSantis Administration.
Another Republican lobbyist stated that “the ethics behind this are questionable, especially since the budget is yet to be approved.”
It is a close call between what is ethical and possible legal. A Florida lobbyist stated that state employees are using their official position to ask for money from people whose livelihood depends on having access to the state government.
The person said, “Using a code bundle makes it appear that certain employees are credited with the campaign.” “It is very questionable.”
DeSantis officially launched his presidential bid on Wednesday in a Twitter Spaces discussion with Elon Musk. The conversation was marred by technical glitches which at times overshadowed even the event itself.
DeSantis announced on Thursday that it had raised 8.2 million within the first 24 hours. This is a huge amount.
DeSantis’ political persona is centered around his goal to “drain” the swamp. His campaign store began selling t-shirts that said “DeSantis Breaks Systems” following the botched Twitter launch, which the campaign attributed to the high volume of interest the platform could not handle.
“This practice is perfect for DeSantis’ corrupt swampy meme, which is used by his opponents. Another veteran Florida Republican said, “For no f —— purpose.” “Hard to Be Mr. When you do this, break the Internet and Swamp. “This is really dumb.
Republican fundraisers and consultants in other states have told NBC News that they’ve never heard of a situation where state employees tried to solicit political contributions. It would be a serious issue if any of their clients took a similar route.
A Republican fundraiser working on federal elections stated that “if any of my client’s legislative staff sent out donation links, then we would have a difficult conversation.”
The person said that, regardless of the legal implications of asking taxpayer-funded lobbyists for money in politics is bad.
Another Florida Republican lobbyist said, “Whoever told these kids to do that has lost their mind.”