Tallahassee, Fla. — Donald Trump’s allies are stepping up their battle with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis formally accused her of violating state ethics and election laws with her “shadow presidential campaign”.
Make America Great Again Inc. is filing a 15-page complaint with the Florida Commission on Ethics on Wednesday, a draft of which was obtained exclusively by NBC News.
It asks the commission to investigate whether the pro-DeSantis super PAC, his “personally engaging book tour” and a steady wave of state-level campaign contributions, among other things, “are illegal because they are aimed at his personal political interests.” purposes, are in furtherance of his personal financial gain at the expense of the taxpayers of Florida, and are intended to influence his official decision to resign from office.”
Since Trump announced in November that he was running for president again, he has become more publicly hostile toward DeSantis, a former political protégé now expected to be his main opponent in the Republican primary. This includes branding DeSantis with Trump’s trademark nicknames and trying to frame him as a political moderate with a GOP base.
But the complaint is the first time Trump’s supporters have elevated the dispute from campaign rhetoric to a formal legal battle.
DeSantis’ office did not respond to a request for comment.
Trump’s aides face a tall order in getting the commission to investigate DeSantis, given that he appointed five of the nine members.
The draft of the complaint details steps taken by DeSantis in recent months in what appear to be a bid for the incoming presidency.
DeSantis is widely expected to run for president but has not yet formally announced. However, the complaint alleges that he has already checked all the boxes for someone considering running for the White House, including making stops in early primary states; writing a book (his title is “The Courage to Be Free”); raising hundreds of millions of dollars to go to a state-level committee that could be moved to a federal super PAC; And seeing a slew of super PACs led by supporters and an outside nonprofit group, some with the stated intention of running DeSantis for president.
The pro-Trump super PAC says these steps, when taken together, violate a handful of Florida laws regarding officers accepting illegal gifts.
“This letter provides sufficient evidence to support a finding of probable cause by the Florida Commission on Ethics that Governor DeSantis solicited millions in concert with certain affiliated political committees, political consultants and a 501(c)(4) organization.” has and has received illegal gifts of dollars in violation of Florida state ethics laws and the Florida Constitution,” reads the draft complaint.
It is addressed to the chairman of the ethics commission, Glanton Gilzean, who was appointed by DeSantis.
DeSantis has repeatedly dismissed questions about whether he is considering a bid for president, and his aides have insisted that he is focused on governing Florida rather than planning a presidential campaign. Are.
Trump’s team based its complaint partly on Florida’s anti-resignation law, which requires politicians running for a new office to resign if the terms of the two offices overlap. DeSantis was re-elected last year by a nearly 20-point margin for another four-year term.
Florida legislators have changed the law in the past, particularly when former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist was on the short list to be John McCain’s presidential running mate in 2008. The law was changed back in 2018, but Republican legislative leaders have openly discussed changing it again during the current legislative session for a possible DeSantis presidential bid.
“If someone who is governor of Florida is running for president, I think he should be allowed to do that,” State Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, a Republican, told reporters in November.
Trump’s allies argue that because the law has not yet been changed, any gift or money accepted to influence his decision to resign from office to run for president would violate state law. that prohibits officeholders from accepting gifts designed to perform “official action.” ,
The ethics complaint specifically Run, Ron, Run! notes a new Virginia-based super PAC called, which was created by Ken Cuccinelli, a former top official in the Trump administration’s Department of Homeland Security.
“America’s future is Ron DeSantis,” Cuccinelli said in a promotional video last week announcing the new committee.
The MAGA Inc. draft complaint argues that the creation of committees such as Cuccinelli and other super PACs deemed less viable vehicles for pro-DeSantis donors represented illegal efforts to persuade DeSantis to resign from office.
“Run, Ron, Run!”, which was formed on March 8, 2023, exists for the sole intention of enticing Governor DeSantis to run for president and to make an irrevocable resignation pursuant to Florida’s resignation to run law uses its official judgment to,” it says.
DeSantis has raised more than $10 million since the beginning of the year for a state-level political committee called Friends of Ron DeSantis. The committee has long been his main fundraising vehicle, and the money can be diverted to a federal super PAC, but Trump’s team says that because DeSantis faces term limits, the committee’s continued spending is his Represents efforts to promote presidential aspirations.
“Only publicly teasing his private decision to run for president,” the Florida Political Committee, a friend of Ron DeSantis, said in the draft complaint, has made Governor DeSantis’ intentions clear with a new ad campaign. made it amply clear, stating, ‘That’s the only price you have to pay for being able to save this country.’