At this point in the still-intimate 2024 presidential race, the best metaphor we might be able to conjure would be that of a thoroughbred horse race where some of the most prominent jockeys are holding in the gate, waiting for some act of God to improve their chances.
This is truest as it pertains to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, whose trepidation to run is almost certainly in hopes of some DOJ or Manhattan-instigated legal lightning strike coming down on the head of presumptive 2024 nominee and former President Donald Trump.
But, in true Trump fashion, it appears as though the lead horse is going to strike first.
Make America Great Again Inc. is filing a 15-page complaint Wednesday with the Florida Commission on Ethics, a draft of which was obtained exclusively by NBC News.
It asks the commission to probe whether pro-DeSantis super PACs, his “personally lucrative book tour” and a continued wave of state-level campaign contributions, among other things, “are unlawful because they serve his personal political objectives, are in furtherance of his personal financial gain at the expense of Florida taxpayers, and are intended to influence his official decision to resign from office.”
Since Trump announced in November that he is again running for president, he has grown more publicly hostile toward DeSantis, a former political protégé now expected to be his chief rival in the Republican primaries. That includes branding DeSantis with Trump’s trademark nicknames and trying to frame him as a political moderate out of step with the GOP base.
The accusations are ugly:
DeSantis is widely expected to run for president but has not yet formally announced. The complaint alleges, however, that he has already checked all the boxes for someone considering a run for the White House, including making stops in early primary states; writing a book (his is titled “The Courage to Be Free”); raising tens of millions of dollars to go into a state-level committee that could be transferred to a federal super PAC; and watching a constellation of supporter-led super PACs and an outside nonprofit group pop up, some with the stated intention of getting DeSantis to run for president.
The pro-Trump super PAC says those steps, when taken together, violate a handful of Florida laws about officeholders’ accepting illegal gifts.
“This letter provides ample evidence to support a finding of probable cause by the Florida Commission on Ethics that Governor DeSantis, in concert with certain associated political committees, political consultants and a 501(c)(4) organization, has solicited and received millions of dollars’ worth of illegal gifts in violation of Florida State ethics laws and the Florida Constitution,” the draft complaint reads.
The Florida lawmaker’s team wasn’t impressed by any stretch of the imagination.
“Adding this to the list of frivolous and politically motivated attacks — it’s inappropriate to use state ethics for partisan purposes,” said Taryn Fenske, DeSantis’ communications director.
Trump has been landing some rather bold public attacks against DeSantis in recent weeks, but the Florida Governor has largely avoided mentioning Trump by name – which is almost certainly a strategic decision.
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