President Donald Trump and his allies have escalated their efforts to bring the primary fight to potential GOP rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who is considered Trump’s biggest challenger for the 2024 nomination. MAGA Inc., a pro-Trump super PAC, has filed a 15-page complaint with the Florida Commission on Ethics, accusing DeSantis of running a “shadow presidential campaign” that violates state and federal election law.
DeSantis, who has not yet announced his candidacy for the 2024 presidential race, has recently been promoting his new book “Freedom Blueprint” in Iowa and Nevada, two early presidential primary states. He is also scheduled to headline a Republican Party dinner in New Hampshire in April. DeSantis has privately indicated to donors and allies that he is leaning towards running for president. A final decision is expected after his legislative session concludes.
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The complaint, filed by Taylor Budowich, head of the MAGA, Inc. PAC, alleges that DeSantis’ book tour and ongoing fundraising for the “Friends of Ron DeSantis” state committee are unlawful and serve his political objectives. Budowich claims these activities further DeSantis’ financial gain at the expense of Florida taxpayers and are intended to influence his official decision to resign from office.
In response to the complaint, DeSantis communications director Taryn Fenske dismissed the allegations as “frivolous and politically motivated,” adding that using state ethics complaints for partisan purposes is inappropriate.
The complaint against DeSantis cites Florida law’s unique restrictions on state officials accepting gifts, benefiting from outside income, and being influenced into making specific decisions. MAGA Inc. claims DeSantis has leveraged a shadow presidential campaign to amass personal wealth and political capital in violating these state ethics laws. The organization requests that the Florida Commission on Ethics impose penalties on DeSantis, including his removal from office and disqualification from future ballots in Florida.
Despite DeSantis not officially announcing his candidacy, the complaint argues that he is already a de facto presidential candidate, as evidenced by his meetings with donors, outreach to potential staff through allies, and courting influential Republicans in early-voting states. Accordingly, the complaint suggests disciplinary action against DeSantis, such as removal from office, public censure, or fines.
Trump’s intensifying attacks on DeSantis reflect the attention given to DeSantis’ potential candidacy, which poses a significant challenge to Trump’s plans to win the GOP nomination in 2024.
As the battle between Trump and DeSantis unfolds, Republican voters will ultimately decide whether to support the former president or embrace new national leadership in the form of DeSantis.