Republicans Criticizing DeSantis’ Battle With Disney Took Company’s Funds

Republicans who have criticized Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ (R) actions against The Walt Disney Company have received large donations from the company’s corporate political action committee, according to campaign finance records by the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

DeSantis and Disney have clashed since early 2022 when the Florida Legislature passed a law signed by DeSantis that stripped Disney of municipal powers within a district for criticizing Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law.

Several Republicans have recently spoken out against DeSantis’ ongoing feud with Disney, arguing that it’s bad for business. However, those Republicans received sizable campaign contributions from Disney executives and employees.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said DeSantis should “sit down and negotiate” with Disney rather than pursue legislative action against them. According to the FEC, McCarthy has received Disney PAC funds, with the McCarthy Victory Fund, a fundraising group for congressional Republicans, receiving nearly $50,000 from Disney since 2015.

McCarthy has also received contributions from prominent Disney executives, including Bill Bailey, Disney’s Senior Vice President of Government Relations in Washington, D.C.; former Chairman and CEO Bob Chapek, Chief Financial Officer of Disney Parks, Kevin Lansberry, and President of Walt Disney World resort, Jeff Vahale.

“This is a big employer inside Florida…I think the governor should sit down with them. I don’t think the idea of building a prison next to a place where you bring your family is the best idea. I think it’d be much better if you sat down and solved the problems,” McCarthy said on CNBC’s Squawk Box, referring to a joke DeSantis made about building a prison next to Disney World.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) also criticized DeSantis’ positions against Disney, calling for “cooler heads to prevail” and arguing that both parties should cooperate to provide Floridians with more jobs.

“We’ve got to figure out how to solve this problem, how to make sure Disney continues to grow in our state, how Disney continues to invest and add more jobs,” Scott told the Associated Press (AP).

The Orlando Sentinel reported that as governor of Florida, Scott’s PAC, “Let’s Get to Work,” received a little more than $250,000 in 2015 from the Walt Disney Parks & Resorts as a donation.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who suggested DeSantis’ fight against Disney could be seen as “problematic” for business, has received nearly $21,000 from Disney since 2016. According to the FEC, $11,000 was donated to his recent election campaign.

The funds were donated by The Walt Disney Company Employee PAC which was formed in 1993 by former CEO Michael D. Eisner. A PAC associated with Rubio, known as the “Reclaim America PAC,” received $35,000 from Disney since 2011.

During an interview with Fox News, Rubio questioned “the idea that somehow if you run crossways with us politically, whoever’s in charge, then you may wind up in the crosshairs of the legislature for political purposes to make a statement at you,” when asked about DeSantis’ battle with Disney.

“I don’t have a problem with taking on Disney,” Rubio said. “I think the fundamental question here is what we’re trying to fix is the fact that Disney had some arrangement that gave them governmental-type powers. I think it’s a perfectly legitimate thing.”

DeSantis’ battle with Disney began after the company criticized his signing of the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibited K-3 teachers from teaching content relating to gender or lewd concepts and permitted parents to sue schools that defy the law.