Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ allies are reportedly planning to transfer tens of millions of dollars from his state political committee to a pro-DeSantis federal super PAC to support his potential presidential campaign in 2024. DeSantis is widely considered to be former President Donald Trump’s top potential Republican primary rival. He won his gubernatorial race in 2018 and was reelected in 2022 with the help of a deep-pocketed state political committee that has raised more than $225 million for him and currently holds nearly $86 million in cash. However, federal law bans the transfer of state-level political funds to a national election, so the governor’s allies are planning to transfer these funds to a federal super PAC, which is required to remain independent of his potential presidential bid.
Although the Campaign Legal Center, a government watchdog, argues that such a transfer is illegal, other experts disagree. The Federal Election Commission has not enforced in this area, and the FEC allowed a similar maneuver during the 2020 congressional race of Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla. Donalds had resigned as chair of his own political committee, “Friends of Byron Donalds,” shortly before running for Congress. A few months later, that state group contributed more than $107,000 to a federal independent political committee that supported Donalds’ candidacy. The Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint accusing Donalds of violating a ban on using non-federal funds, but the FEC took no action on the matter.
DeSantis’ state political committee, Friends of Ron DeSantis, has already begun positioning itself for the transfer. The group recently selected state Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, a Republican ally of DeSantis, to take over as its chairman, and the committee’s website now lists Ingoglia instead of DeSantis. Friends of Ron DeSantis is allowed to accept unlimited contributions from donors, and the group has received single donations of $10 million from hotelier Robert Bigelow and $5 million from hedge fund CEO Ken Griffin, among many others.
DeSantis appears to be preparing to launch a presidential campaign, backed by a heavily Republican state legislature that has passed measures allowing him to run for president without resigning as governor and shielding his travel records from public view. He has also been hosting events with prospective Republican donors. If the transfer of funds from DeSantis’ state committee to a super PAC is successful, it could help reverse the governor’s downward slide in some polls of the potential primary race. Trump has pulled ahead as the clear frontrunner while criticizing DeSantis at every opportunity. However, some experts see the use of state funds at the federal level as a loophole, while others note that calling it a loophole implies it isn’t illegal.
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