DeSantis may snub Big Tech’s inaugural donations, strategists say
Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida is considering turning down donations from big tech companies for his second inauguration next month, according to two Republican strategists involved in the talks, in a move to energize conservative activists keen to take on Silicon Valley .
Mr. DeSantis, who is considering a potential challenge to Donald J. Trump for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, has often accused companies like Apple and Google of going too far and limiting free speech in their efforts to slow the spreading misinformation and conspiracy theories.
While turning down tech donations would be cheered on the right, it’s unclear how much money Mr. DeSantis would leave on the table. Silicon Valley has not been a major contributor to his two gubernatorial campaigns or his previous three House campaigns, according to campaign finance reports.
Donations raised by Mr. DeSantis’ nomination team will go to the Republican Party of Florida. For his first inauguration, Mr DeSantis released a partial list of donors – including Disney, the GEO Group’s private prison company and the Police Benevolent Association – but did not say how many had been given. This contrasts with his predecessor, Sen. Rick Scott, who raised about $6.4 million for his inauguration as governor in 2011 and listed those donations on his website, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
A spokesperson for Mr. DeSantis declined to comment. The two strategists familiar with the proposed move, who insisted on anonymity to discuss private deliberations, said Mr. DeSantis had not yet made a final decision on donations.
Florida’s governor has long vowed to crack down on Silicon Valley, including after the Capitol Riot on Jan. 6, 2021, when many major platforms banned accounts, including Mr. Trump’s, that perpetuated the misinformation and conspiracy theories. A month after the riot, Mr. DeSantis said he would seek new legislation to prevent social media companies from censoring political candidates, and he and Republicans in the state passed such legislation.
But a federal appeals court panel unanimously rejected the law. Judge Kevin C. Newsom, appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit by Mr. Trump, wrote that the Florida law would effectively limit First Amendment protections.
Learn more about Ron DeSantis and his administration
“With few exceptions, the government cannot tell a private person or entity what to say or how to say it,” Judge Newsom wrote.
Lower donations from tech companies at the inauguration would help bolster the governor’s anti-elite good faith while providing a contrast to Mr. Trump, who announced his presidential campaign last month.
While Mr. Trump has openly criticized companies such as General Motors and Amazon, he has welcomed financial support from all comers. His campaign is planning its first round of major fundraising next month, a series of high-value, private events intended to help offset a drop in online donations in the final months of this year.
Mr Trump has been primarily inoculated by criticism of taking money from special interests in recent years due, in part, to the personal fortune he built before running for office. But while the former president has always said he can afford to pay for his own campaigns, he has mostly relied on fundraising.
Mr. DeSantis, for his part, has forged close relationships with Republican donors since he first ran for Congress in 2012. In 2016, after new congressional maps carved out his home in the House district he represented, Mr. DeSantis rented a condo in the district from campaign donors who were executives for a defense contractor.
For his re-election campaign this year, Mr. DeSantis has amassed a whopping $200 million war chest, largely from six- and seven-figure donations from special interests. Robert Bigelow, a real estate and aerospace entrepreneur, and Kenneth Griffin, the founder of the Citadel hedge fund, both gave Mr. DeSantis $10 million.
Unlike federal campaign finance laws, Florida law does not limit individual or corporate donations to political parties or state committees. This means that if Mr. DeSantis becomes a federal candidate, next month’s inaugural events could be his last opportunity to organize a major fundraiser for the Florida Republican Party, which effectively functions as a political arm for a sitting governor.
On Sunday, DeSantis met with fundraisers at an event in Miami designed as a thank you to major donors, but he left some unsatisfied. The event had been billed as an “intimate dinner and chat” with Mr. DeSantis and his wife, Casey DeSantis, but instead turned into a reception that the governor attended for about 20 minutes, according to two attendees.
Mr DeSantis has spent much of the last year signaling his national ambitions, including this week when he said he would ask the Florida Supreme Court to appoint a grand jury to investigate Covid-19 vaccines. 19 and criticized federal legislation aimed at protecting same-sex marriage.
“They’re using the power, I think, of the federal government in a way that will absolutely put religious institutions in a tough spot,” DeSantis said. said during a Fox News interview about the same-sex marriage bill, which President Biden signed into law on Tuesday. “There was definitely no need to do that.”
Mr. DeSantis led Mr. Trump in two public polls of a hypothetical 2024 Republican primary this week. Among Republicans and those inclined to vote Republican, 56% said they supported Mr. DeSantis while 33% supported Mr. Trump, according to a USA Today/Suffolk University poll. A Wall Street Journal poll showed the Florida governor leading the race, 52% to 38%.
Mr. DeSantis plans to provide exclusive access to his biggest donors at his inaugural events on Jan. 2 and after his swearing-in ceremony on Jan. 3, according to a copy of an events calendar viewed by The New York Times.
For donors who donate $1 million, Mr. DeSantis will provide 10 tickets each for a candlelit dinner the day before the inauguration, for VIP seating at the inauguration ceremony and for an inaugural ball that evening.
These donors will also receive a photo with the Governor, be named “Inaugural Chairs” in the Inaugural Ball program, and receive two tickets to “A Toast to One Million Mamas,” an event held in honor of a united campaign group. by Mrs. DeSantis. .
Patricia Mazzei and Maggie Haberman contributed report.