Yuma Sun

Trump allies file ethics complaint against Desantis


TALLAHASSE­E, Fla. – Allies of former President Donald Trump have filed a complaint with the Florida Commission on Ethics accusing Gov. Ron Desantis, a leading potential 2024 primary rival, of violating campaign finance and ethics rules with a “shadow” run for the White House.

The 15-page complaint filed Wednesday by MAGA Inc., a Trump-supporting super PAC, and shared with The Associated Press, asks the commission to investigat­e Florida’s Republican leader for allegedly “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.”

It says Desantis is “already a de facto candidate for President of the United States,” citing the governor’s meetings with donors, outreach by allies to potential staff and his courting of influentia­l Republican­s in early-voting states, among other efforts. The complaint asks the nine-member commission – five of whose members were appointed by Desantis – to punish the governor by having him suspended from office, publicly censured or fined.

Desantis communicat­ions director Taryn Fenske dismissed the accusation­s and questioned the motives of the complaint. “Adding this to the list of frivolous and politicall­y motivated attacks. It’s inappropri­ate to use state ethics complaints for partisan purposes,” she said in a statement.

Ken Cuccinelli, the former Trump Homeland Security official who recently launched a political action committee supporting Desantis’ potential run, accused Trump allies of playing “establishm­ent games.”

“I’m shocked, but not surprised,” he said in a statement. “During my tenure as Attorney General of Virginia,

I saw complaints all the time and I can tell when spaghetti is just thrown at the wall.”

The letter, which was first reported by NBC News, comes as Trump has stepped up his criticism of Desantis, whom the ex-president’s campaign sees as his most serious rival for the 2024 GOP nomination. Trump has tried to belittle Desantis with nicknames and has focused on the governor’s past policy positions, including Florida’s early COVID-19 restrictio­ns and his votes on Social Security while he was a member of Congress.

Trump himself faced similar criticism before announcing his own candidacy in November, accused of violating federal campaign laws by raising and spending money for a run ahead of a formal 2024 campaign launch. He was never reprimande­d or fined as a result.

While Desantis has not yet formally announced a 2024 campaign, he is widely expected to do so after Florida’s

legislativ­e session ends in May. In the meantime, he has traveled to early-voting states to promote his new book and has met with donors. His team has also held informal conversati­ons with prospectiv­e campaign staff.

Ethics Commission spokespers­on Lynn Blaise said the agency is not allowed to acknowledg­e any complaints received until a complaint reaches a point where it can be made public. In addition to the five commission members appointed by Desantis, the remaining four were appointed by the Senate president and House speaker – both allies of the governor.

If the commission finds the complaint is valid, it could issue a fine or a reprimand, but cannot remove an elected official from office. It could recommend that the governor suspend an elected official for violating ethics laws, but that would require Desantis to take action against himself if a violation were found.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States