Desantis May Snub Big Tech Inaugural Donations Strategists Say

DeSantis May Snub Big Tech Inaugural Donations, Strategists Say

Desantis May Snub Big Tech Inaugural Donations Strategists Say

The Florida governor, who is considering a 2024 presidential bid, has often railed against tech companies. But while turning down their cash would cheer conservative activists, it’s unclear how much is at stake.

Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida is considering refusing donations from major tech companies for his second inauguration next month, according to two Republican strategists involved in the discussions, in a move aimed at energizing conservative activists who are eager to take on Silicon Valley.

Mr. DeSantis, who is weighing a potential challenge to Donald J. Trump for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, has often accused companies like Apple and Google of overreaching and limiting free speech in their efforts to slow the spread of misinformation and conspiracy theories.

While turning down tech donations would be cheered on the right, it is unclear how much money Mr. DeSantis would be leaving on the table. Silicon Valley has not been a major contributor to his two campaigns for governor or his three previous campaigns for the House, according to campaign finance reports.

Donations raised by Mr. DeSantis’s inauguration team will be made out to the Republican Party of Florida. For his first inauguration, Mr. DeSantis released a partial list of donors — including Disney, the private prison company the GEO Group and the Police Benevolent Association — but did not specify how much had been given. That contrasted with his predecessor, Senator 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 spokesman for Mr. DeSantis declined to comment. The two strategists familiar with the proposed move, who insisted on anonymity to discuss private deliberations, said that Mr. DeSantis had not yet made a final decision on the donations.

The Florida 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 misinformation and conspiracy theories. A month after the riot, Mr. DeSantis said he would seek a new law aimed at limiting social media companies from censoring political candidates, and he and state Republicans passed such legislation.

But a panel of a federal appeals court 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.

“With minor exceptions, the government can’t tell a private person or entity what to say or how to say it,” Judge Newsom wrote.

Declining tech companies’ donations to the inauguration would help burnish the governor’s anti-elite bona fides while offering a contrast to Mr. Trump, who announced his presidential campaign last month.

While Mr. Trump has openly criticized corporations including General Motors and Amazon, he has welcomed financial support from all comers. His campaign is planning its first round of major fund-raisers next month, a series of private, high-dollar events meant to help offset a downturn in online donations during the final months of this year.

Mr. Trump has been mostly inoculated from criticism about 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 consistently said he could afford to pay for his own campaigns, he has mostly relied on fund-raising.

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 his home out of 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 built a huge $200 million war chest, much of it from six- and seven-figure donations from special interests. Robert Bigelow, a real estate and aerospace entrepreneur, and Kenneth Griffin, the founder of the hedge fund Citadel, both gave $10 million to Mr. DeSantis.

Unlike federal campaign finance laws, Florida law does not cap individual or corporate donations to state political parties or committees. That means that if Mr. DeSantis becomes a federal candidate, the inaugural events next month may be his last opportunity to hold a major fund-raiser for the Republican Party of Florida, which effectively operates as a political organ for a sitting governor.

Alicia Devine/Tallahassee Democrat, via Associated Press

On Sunday, Mr. DeSantis met with fund-raisers 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 discussion” 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 past year signaling his national ambitions, including this week when he said he would ask the Florida Supreme Court to impanel a grand jury to investigate Covid-19 vaccines and criticized federal legislation to protect same-sex marriage.

“They’re using the power, I think, of the federal government in ways that will absolutely put religious institutions in difficult spots,” Mr. DeSantis said during an interview on Fox News about the same-sex marriage law, which President Biden signed on Tuesday. “There was certainly no need to do this.”

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 percent said they supported Mr. DeSantis while 33 percent backed Mr. Trump, according to a USA Today/Suffolk University poll. A Wall Street Journal poll showed the Florida governor leading the race, 52 percent to 38 percent.

Mr. DeSantis is planning to provide exclusive access to his biggest donors during his inaugural events on Jan. 2 and after his swearing-in ceremony on Jan. 3, according to a copy of a schedule of events viewed by The New York Times.

For donors who give $1 million, Mr. DeSantis will provide 10 tickets each to a candlelight dinner on the eve of the inauguration, to V.I.P. seating at the inauguration ceremony and to an inaugural ball that night.

These donors will also receive a photograph 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 campaign group assembled by Ms. DeSantis.

Patricia Mazzei and Maggie Haberman contributed reporting.

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