A car crash in Tennessee involving four vehicles in Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ motorcade has shown that his campaign has exploited government vehicles by employing cars owned by the state of Florida in his presidential campaign.
The crash on 31,2023 Tuesday as the campaign team travelled to fundraisers in three cities across the state demonstrates how the campaign utilises state resources. Still, it remains nearly impossible to determine who is funding it due to a new law passed by the Florida legislature that shields Mr DeSantis’s travel records from public scrutiny.
Ben Wilcox, research director for the nonprofit government watchdog Integrity Florida, “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 if that is even the case.”
It’s absurd that he’s using public resources and infrastructure to campaign, Orlando Democratic state lawmaker Anna Eskamani told the outlet. He is utilizing state resources to advance his political career.
The crash occurred as the campaign drove to a fundraiser when traffic slowed due to an accident further ahead. Chattanooga Police, the cars behind the officer rear-ended each other after a Tennessee Highway Patrol officer leading the motorcade stopped.
“If the accident hadn’t been reported, we wouldn’t have known otherwise about using state vehicles,” Ms Eskamani added. “It makes you wonder how often state vehicles and public employees are used at out-of-state campaign events.”
One DeSantis staffer was treated for minor injuries at the scene. There were no further injuries, authorities. Agents from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) were also involved in the accident. Police, all vehicles involved in the incident belonged to the government.
FDLE spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger said, “We’ve never answered questions about our protective operations assets (number of agents used, vehicles, etc.)”
The federal campaign finance report for the three months ending June 30th, submitted on July 15, does not include any payments to FDLE for travel or security. $76,256 was spent on private protection.
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The DeSantis campaign has recently been in the news for spending significant sums of money with little to show for it and recently laying off 38 workers, accounting for one-third of the campaign personnel.
Travel and personnel appear to be significant campaign expenses since Mr DeSantis has been reported to travel with a more substantial number of staffers than other candidates.
As of June 30, the campaign had raised $20 million, and they had spent $8.2 million – more than a million on wages and nearly as much on travel – $896,000.
The Sentinel, Mr DeSantis prefers to fly in private jets given by several significant fundraisers. Since the start of his re-election campaign for governor last year, there have been doubts regarding who owns his private jets and whether they are recorded as in-kind contributions or gifts. I don’t think we’ve ever had a sitting governor run for president Mr Wilcox said to the paper.
Michael Barfield, the director of public access at the Florida Center for Government Accountability, told the newspaper that at the end of the day, taxpayers don’t know what their money is being spent on. He also stated that the group is contemplating its next legal steps.
“We’re questioning the validity of the exemption,” Mr Barfield said. “We don’t think it meets a public purpose so we will brainstorm about potential legal action.”
The legislature may overturn the public records exemption, Ms Eskamani, but it would take a political will that doesn’t exist, even for something as nonpartisan as access to travel records.