Trump Supporters Try to Oust DeSantis From Office

  • A pro-Trump PAC has filed a complaint with the Florida Commission on Ethics, accusing Governor Ron DeSantis of running a "shadow presidential campaign" in violation of state election laws.
  • MAGA Inc. alleges that DeSantis is using a shadow campaign to "amass significant wealth" and is violating the state's resign-to-run law by not announcing his candidacy for president.
  • The group also claims DeSantis is using his elected office to influence his national appearance and has raised $12 million since the start of 2023.

A group of Trump supporters is hoping to strip Florida Governor Ron DeSantis of his title and his ability to run for office again in Florida, according to a complaint filed with the Florida Commission on Ethics.

On Wednesday, the Make America Great Again (MAGA) Inc. super-PAC filed a complaint with the Florida Commission on Ethics accusing DeSantis of running a "shadow presidential campaign." Voters are anticipating DeSantis announcing a run for president, and many polls are pitting him as Trump's biggest contender in the 2024 GOP primary election. DeSantis hasn't announced a campaign yet, and MAGA Inc. alleges his actions violate state election laws and are unfair to Florida taxpayers.

In a letter addressed to Florida Commission on Ethics Chair Glenton Gilzean, MAGA Inc. accuses DeSantis of leaving Florida behind as he continues to mull a presidential run. DeSantis is expected to make his decision about a presidential campaign by May, but MAGA Inc. said DeSantis is using a shadow campaign to "amass significant wealth," directly violating state ethics laws.

Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump at rally
Florida Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis (R) speaks with President Donald Trump at a campaign rally at the Pensacola International Airport on November 3, 2018, in Pensacola, Florida. Trump has since turned against DeSantis, a potential 2024 presidential candidate. A pro-Trump political action committee filed a complaint with the Florida Commission on Ethics accusing DeSantis of violating several election laws. Getty

One law in question is Florida's resign-to-run law, which says Florida politicians are required to resign from their position if running for a new position that overlaps with their current term. DeSantis' current term as governor is through 2027.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist also suggested DeSantis would violate the law. In an October debate between Crist and DeSantis ahead of the midterms, Crist asked DeSantis on stage if he would be able to govern Florida for all four years if reelected. DeSantis refused to answer, although moderator rules prohibited candidates from asking questions of each other on stage.

"Governor DeSantis's failure to declare his candidacy is no mere oversight; it is a coordinated effort 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," MAGA Inc.'s letter said.

"Governor DeSantis's ham-handed maneuverings have rendered him irreparably conflicted and have left the statehouse vacant."

DeSantis' Communications Director Taryn Fenske told Newsweek in an email that DeSantis' team would add the complaint to "the list of frivolous and politically motivated attacks."

"It's inappropriate to use state ethics complaints for partisan purposes," she said.

MAGA Inc. accuses DeSantis of "leveraging his elected office" to influence his national appearance. The group lists examples, such as DeSantis allegedly meeting with influential figures in early primary states.

In February, DeSantis met with Vander Plaats, an Evangelical leader from Iowa with high influence. Plaats said the pair didn't discuss a presidential campaign but rather spoke about the nation's challenges.

MAGA Inc. also said that DeSantis' PAC, Friends of Ron DeSantis, has continued fundraising initiatives despite term limits keeping DeSantis from running for a third stint as governor. Friends of Ron DeSantis has raised $12 million since the start of 2023 and has spent $1.6 million, the letter states.

DeSantis' fundraising has been touted as the best in the state when his initiatives broke Florida gubernatorial fundraising records last year. According to OpenSecrets, a nonpartisan research group, DeSantis raised $177.4 million through September 9, 2022, with Friends of Ron DeSantis providing most of the funds by raising more than $146 million since January 2019.

When speaking at events, DeSantis has gravitated toward language resembling that of a candidate. DeSantis often criticizes the Democratic party, specifically actions by President Joe Biden and his policies, uses the term "woke" to describe progressive actions by companies or politicians, and references issues that pose a threat to the nation, such as border security initiatives.

DeSantis also recently conducted a retreat for potential Republican donors in February, which included former Trump supporters.

MAGA Inc.'s letter to the Florida Commission on Ethics is the first legal action taken by Trump supporters against DeSantis. Since Trump's campaign announcement in November, the former president has often berated DeSantis by calling him names or criticizing his approach to certain policies, but legal action hasn't been taken until now.

DeSantis poses an advantage to the complaint, as he appointed five of the commission's nine members, NBC News reported. The commission's chair, to whom the MAGA Inc. letter is addressed, is among DeSantis' appointees.