Former President Donald Trump took his attacks on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to a new level Wednesday, as a Super PAC linked to the 76-year-old accused his would-be rival of ethics violations tied to what it calls DeSantis’ “shadow presidential campaign.”
A draft of the 15-page letter by Make America Great Again Inc. calls on the Florida Commission on Ethics to investigate DeSantis, alleging that the 44-year-old has violated a slew of state statutes as well as federal campaign finance laws.
The complaint refers to DeSantis as a “de facto candidate for president” and claims that the governor is “leveraging his elected office and breaching his associated duties in a coordinated effort to develop his national profile, enrich himself and his political allies, and influence the national electorate.”
“Governor DeSantis’ failure to declare his candidacy is no mere oversight,” the complaint alleged. “[I]t is a coordinated effort to specifically designed for him to accept, as unethical gifts, illegal campaign contributions and certain personal benefits that are necessarily intended to influence his official decision to resign from office under Florida’s resign to run law.
“Governor DeSantis’ ham-handed maneuverings,” the complaint added, “have rendered him irreparably conflicted and have left the statehouse vacant.”
The letter includes as evidence that DeSantis has “abused his office and abdicated his official duties in favor of pursuing his national political interests” the fact that the governor has “met with influential figures in early primary states,” “is vetting operatives in early primary states,” and “met with individuals who are likely to play key roles in his presidential campaign.”
The letter asks that the commission impose one or more penalties including impeachment, removal from office, public censure, ballot disqualification and fines.
The complaint refers to Sunshine State law which states: “No person may qualify as a candidate for more than one public office, whether federal, state, district, county, or municipal, if the terms or any part thereof run concurrently with each other.”
That means, unless Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature tweaks the law, DeSantis would have to resign his current office to run for the presidency.
While DeSantis has yet to officially enter the 2024 race, he is expected to do so once Florida’s legislative session ends in May.
Taryn Fenske, a spokeswoman for DeSantis, said the letter can be added “to the list of frivolous and politically motivated attacks. It’s inappropriate to use state ethics complaints for partisan purposes.”
The Florida governor has been promoting his new book, “The Courage to Be Free,” a national tour that has taken him to some of the early voting GOP states, including Iowa and New Hampshire.
Last week, DeSantis and former US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley — the only other declared GOP presidential candidate — made the trek to the Hawkeye State for multiple appearances.
DeSantis spoke last Friday to a packed house in Davenport and also appeared in Des Moines.
Three days later, Trump, who announced he was running for president Nov. 15, also held a rally in Davenport, where he took several shots at DeSantis.
Polls have repeatedly shown Trump and DeSantis as the top two contenders for the 2024 Republican nomination.