A spokesperson for Ron DeSantis has responded to a Washington Post report about undisclosed trips on donors’ private jets and said the report is an example of “Trump-legacy media collusion”.
The DeSantis spokesperson, Andrew Romeo, directed the paper to a former aide to the Florida governor now a top adviser to Donald Trump.
“Additional questions regarding events, itineraries and documentation from almost five years ago should be directed to Susie Wiles, the staffer who oversaw such matters prior to her dismissal,” Romeo said.
Wiles, the Post said, “deferred questions to the Trump campaign”. Trump spokesperson Steven Cheung said “the DeSantis campaign’s ridiculous statement doesn’t even merit a response”, but responded to it anyway.
“Instead of pointing fingers and trying to place blame on others – like they have historically done – the DeSantises should take a good, hard look in the mirror to better understand why they chose to act unethically and sell access to their office.”
Mounting a hardline campaign widely seen as an attempt to outflank Trump on the right, DeSantis remains the former president’s closest challenger in primary polling.
But Trump enjoys huge leads in national and key state surveys, Republicans seemingly unconcerned that he faces 91 criminal charges, for election subversion, retention of classified information and hush-money payments, and civil lawsuits including a defamation claim arising from a rape allegation a judge said was “substantially true”.
The Post report about DeSantis’s travel arrangements concerned “at least six undisclosed trips on private jets and … lodging and dining in late 2018”, when DeSantis was Florida governor-elect, having won power with Trump’s endorsement.
Romeo told the paper: “All travel and events you mention – from almost five years ago – were compliant and received proper payment. Efforts to fundraise for state political parties and cultivate relationships with state officials are standard for political leaders, especially during an election year.”
The Post said DeSantis has not filed any gift disclosures while in office, according to the Florida ethics commission.
The state legislature, tightly controlled by Republicans loyal to DeSantis, has passed a measure to shield the governor’s travel records from media scrutiny.
One of the undisclosed flights reported by the Post was to Augusta National in Georgia, home of the Masters golf tournament.
The donor who supplied the jet, Mori Hosseini, also supplied a golf simulator for the governor’s mansion in Tallahassee.
Hosseini told the Post he had always acted legally, adding: “I or my company have never ever asked for anything from this governor or any other previous governors.”
The Post said Hosseini “later benefited from $92m in federal pandemic funding that the DeSantis administration steered to a highway interchange project he sought”.
Caroline Klancke, a former Florida ethics commission general counsel and deputy executive director, said: “It’s always hard when there’s golf involved. These gift issues are very complex.”