Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) campaign is firing back on a report Thursday that DeSantis, as governor-elect, took multiple undisclosed private flights, claiming it “sounds like more Trump-legacy media collusion.”
“This story sounds like more Trump-legacy media collusion following the recent intimate dinner between Trump campaign officials and national press,” said Andrew Romeo, a communications director for the DeSantis campaign. “It’s apparent the legacy media realizes that Ron DeSantis has the best chance to beat Joe Biden and the Democrats.”
Romeo was referencing reports of a dinner last month between advisers to former President Trump and legacy media reporters ahead of the first GOP primary debate, which Trump notably did not attend.
An investigation by The Washington Post, published Thursday, found DeSantis apparently took at least six undisclosed trips on private jets and accepted lodging and dining from wealthy donors in late 2018. The Post reported the trips took place between DeSantis’s November election and inauguration but were not reported as gifts or campaign contributions.
The Post reported it was unclear if the governor personally reimbursed the flights at the cost of a coach ticket on the same route instead of the actual operating cost of the flight, a legal option allowed by the Ethics Commission.
Citing flight manifests, tracking data and other documents, The Post said DeSantis traveled to Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia on a plane owned by Mori Hosseini, a wealthy donor who has given DeSantis numerous private flights to fundraisers. During this trip, DeSantis played golf with Hosseini and others while also staying the night in one of the club’s rooms, according to The Post.
An earlier Washington Post investigation found Hosseini provided DeSantis with a golf simulator, shortly before the DeSantis administration sent $92 million in leftover pandemic money to a highway interchange project, which reportedly expedited a project by Hosseini, a developer.
A DeSantis spokesman previously told The Hill that the donated golf simulator was documented and approved by legal counsel as required and that the simulator would be used by the first family, staff and guests.
The Post found DeSantis also took four other flights on a plane registered at the time to John Cwik, a DeSantis donor, which he did not report.
In a statement shared with The Hill and The Post, Romeo said, “All travel and events you mention – from almost five years ago – were compliant and received proper payment.”
“And efforts to fundraise for state political parties and cultivate relationships with state officials are standard for political leaders, especially during an election year,” he continued.
Steven Cheung, a spokesperson for the Trump campaign, shot back at the DeSantis campaign’s claims.
“It sounds like Ron DeSantis has a lot of explaining to do about his shady behavior” Cheung said.
“DeSantis knows he has no shot of ever becoming the nominee — he is slipping to third place after all — but cozying up to Never Trumps and lunatic Democrats is an all-time low for him, almost as low as his poll numbers,” Cheung continued.
Trump remains the front-runner in the GOP primary race, with DeSantis often trailing far behind in second. A Morning Consult poll released this week shows Trump has 57 percent of the GOP primary vote, compared to DeSantis with 14 percent support.
The Post did not immediately respond to a request for comment.