Floridians got a surprise after a fender bender on I-75 near Chattanooga, Tennessee when the accident revealed Republican Governor Ron DeSantis was using state government vehicles for his 2024 run. He was on his way to a fundraiser in Tennessee, where he also defended his offensively false pro-slavery curriculum.
“Tuesday’s four-vehicle collision on the way to a campaign fundraiser draws a curtain back on the campaign’s use of state resources. But finding out who’s paying for it is nearly impossible thanks to a new law passed by the Legislature to protect the governor’s travel records from public view,” Jeffrey Schweers reported Friday in the Orlando Sentinel.
Let’s pause here to appreciate that this is a symptom of deep political corruption and democratic backsliding; the use of the law to legalize power grabs is an authoritarian move and one modeled for conservatives by Hungary PM Viktor Orbán at his CPAC appearances.
As I wrote back in August of 2022 about using the law to achieve democratic backsliding: “Orbán achieved what is referred to as “soft fascism” in Hungary by using the same mechanisms Republicans are using in the United States. That’s not an accident, because the dictator gave conservatives a 12-point plan to enact even more democratic backsliding in the U.S. and in the doing, consolidate power. It’s done by changing the law and then using it to steal power, rather than by overt violence or force. Our Supreme Court has already done this in some major ways.”
The Sentinel shared some thoughts from Ben Wilcox, research director for Integrity Florida, a nonpartisan research institute and government watchdog, “The legislature has enabled him to hide his travel records so we don’t know and have no way to hold him accountable if he is using state resources in his campaign or if that is even the case.”
They report that the DeSantis campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment, but the DeSantis campaign’s last report “doesn’t show any payments to FDLE for travel or security expenses.
It does show the campaign spent $76,256 on private security firms, including $64,588 to Rubicon Protection security services of Sun City, Ariz.”
High security and no transparency, while using state vehicles while out of state running for higher office. This tells a story, as does his reported “penchant” for flying on the private jets of wealthy donors with a huge “entourage”. This is the same man who poses as a culture warrior.
Does his real story represent freedom and democracy?
Michael Barfield, director of public access for the Florida Center for Government Accountability, told the Sentinel that DeSantis is “also setting a precedent for lack of transparency.” “At the end of the day, taxpayers don’t know what their money is being spent on.”
That kind of entitlement from a governor doesn’t bode well should that person get into the White House; but on the other hand, the White House brings with it a level of scrutiny that will shed light on political corruption, as Donald Trump learned the hard way. If conservatives have their way, though, that will change.
DeSantis’ assault on basic democracy has long legs. Back in 2020, journalists called him out for violating “the state’s public meeting laws and chose to exclude the @MiamiHerald
and @TB_Times from a media briefing at the Capitol. He was so determined to keep us out, he had an FDLE vehicle pick up TV reporter Mike Vasilinda to give him back door access.”
While no politician loves the press, excluding well-respected outlets from a media briefing and showing favoritism toward favorable reporters is a sign that the politician doesn’t respect the basic right to know that buttresses our supposed freedom in the United States.
Things are not going well for DeSantis’ presidential campaign. He‘s now being criticized by three of the five Black Republican U.S. lawmakers for his pro-slavery curriculum changes and while he has been showered with big money, his campaign is lagging. Ron DeSantis gives off an awkward, wet noodle, self-indulgent, self-righteous, control-freak, micro-manager vibe at political events, like when he scolded a little girl in Iowa saying that her Icee probably had a lot of sugar. He just doesn’t have the star power that a few others in his party have.
The bottom line behind all of these power grabs from the U.S. Congress to Trump’s assault on the law itself to DeSantis’ autocratic test waters in Florida is for Republicans to assert the power to decide what is legal and what isn’t. That’s why the hypocrisy is so glaring and yet irrelevant. This is not a party running on principles, other than the principle that they are entitled to all of the power.
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Sarah has been credentialed to cover President Barack Obama, then VP Joe Biden, 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and exclusively interviewed Speaker Nancy Pelosi multiple times and exclusively covered her first home appearance after the first impeachment of then President Donald Trump.
Sarah is two-time Telly award winning video producer and a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.