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According to the Q1 2023 expenditure report of the Florida Republican Party, approximately two dozen campaign employees for GOP Governor Ron DeSantis’ 2022 campaign are currently being paid by the party, a report noted on Friday.
Although the Florida governor has been evasive about his presidential aspirations, his actions tell a different story, the Daily Caller reports. The state GOP’s filings with Secretary of State Cord Byrd’s office show that the party has paid 24 current or former employees of DeSantis’ campaign, including Christina Pushaw, his former gubernatorial press secretary.
All told, and despite not directly confronting front-runner former President Donald Trump, DeSantis seems to be taking steps to prepare for a possible presidential run, the outlet continued.
The Florida GOP’s hiring of speechwriter Nate Hochman and former DeSantis congressional aide Dustin Carmack was already known, but the wider staffing approach of the DeSantis team had not been reported before.
The news outlet was tipped about the additional hirings when a Florida Republican staff member used an email address with the domain name rondesantis.com while claiming to conduct business for the state GOP.
According to campaign documents filed with the Secretary of State’s office, the DeSantis campaign provided almost $9.6 million to the state GOP in 2022. During Q1 2023, the campaign paid the party over $200,000 as a vendor. The state GOP returned $3 million to Friends of Ron DeSantis, the official DeSantis campaign committee, in Q1 2023, said the outlet, citing records.
Florida GOP chairman Christian Ziegler told the news outlet that the state GOP supports DeSantis “just as any state party does for the sitting Governor of their state.”
“As for the speculation about potential Presidential campaign staff, I haven’t had discussions with the governor about that,” he noted further in a statement.
But two GOP insiders discounted Ziegler’s explanation.
A Florida Republican operative who is familiar with the DeSantis team’s relationship with the state GOP told the Daily Caller that “it is an open secret that they’re running the campaign out of the Florida GOP.”
“Anyone with eyes can see what they’re doing,” a Republican operative, who worked on a different 2022 gubernatorial campaign, added, according to the Daily Caller.
Florida state election laws allow statewide candidates to accept unlimited funds from political parties for various purposes, including polling and research services, campaign staff costs, consulting services, and telephone calls. The DeSantis campaign has given nearly $9.6 million to the state GOP in 2022, and the party has paid over $200,000 to the campaign as a vendor during Q1 2023. Additionally, at least five campaign staffers for Attorney General Ashley Moody were listed on the Q4 2022 filing, and three of them remain on the state GOP payroll, the outlet noted.
“They’re allowed to do this under Florida state law, but it’s certainly very odd to have them paying for staff this late,” a GOP strategist who is familiar with the state’s election laws told the outlet.
All 24 of the DeSantis campaign employees who appeared on the Florida GOP’s Q1 payroll worked on the 2022 campaign. However, recent hires, including Carmack and Hochman, were not included in the payroll list. Per business contact platform LinkedIn, 17 of the 24 employees describe themselves as currently employed by Ron DeSantis for Governor.
“Overall, the Florida GOP kept 41 employees on its payroll in Q1 of 2023, down from 76 during Q4 of 2022. Several departing employees, including former DeSantis campaign hands, remain contracted with the party as consultants, while others have gone to work for the state legislature or in DeSantis’ executive office,” the Daily Caller noted.
DeSantis has made trips to early primary states such as Iowa, Nevada, and New Hampshire, under the guise of promoting his new book. During these trips, he has also met with major Republican Party donors, emphasizing his no-nonsense approach to governance. In an interview with Piers Morgan, DeSantis highlighted his administration has “no daily drama, focus[es] on the big picture and put[s] points on the board.”
Numerous media sources have reported that DeSantis plans to launch his presidential campaign in May, after the Florida legislature’s spring session. However, Florida’s “resign to run” law means that DeSantis would have to relinquish his governorship unless the state legislature repeals it.
Some political analysts speculate that a bill currently under consideration by the Senate’s Ethics and Elections Committee could include a repeal, but Senate President Kathleen Passidomo has downplayed the likelihood of such a move.