Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis lost access to 200,000 supporters after a district court ruled against a political action committee (PAC) created to encourage the governor to run for presidency next year.
Ready for Ron (RFR) was launched by the governor’s supporters who aimed to gather 1 million signatures from voters wanting DeSantis to announce his 2024 presidential bid. The group secured 200,000 petitions, according to a court document.
The PAC wanted to send the petitions, along with the email addresses of the signatories, to the governor’s office to urge him to run in 2024, but the Federal Election Commission (FEC) found that the contact list could be a source of potential donors that might be used to send fundraising solicitations surpassing federal campaign finance limits, Florida Politics reported on Thursday.
Judge Randolph Moss of the Washington, D.C., U.S. District Court upheld the FEC’s conclusion after the PAC appealed the commission’s ruling in court.
“The Court agrees with the Commission that what RFR calls a petition is, in fact, a contact list and, more importantly, an in-kind contribution,” Moss wrote in a memo filed Wednesday. “As such, the list is subject to the contribution limits contained in the Federal Election Campaign Act (“FECA” or the “Act”) … and it is now well-trod ground that those limits satisfy constitutional dictates.”
The court document read: “The Commission unanimously concluded that RFR was, in all but name, seeking permission to provide Governor DeSantis with an in-kind contribution—that is, a contact list in the guise of a petition. Based on that conclusion, the Commission further held that were Governor DeSantis to begin to test the waters for a run, and similarly were he to become a candidate, the campaign finance laws would preclude RFR from delivering that contact list to him because the market value of the list exceeds the relevant contribution limit and because RFR funded its drive with a combination of regulated funds (hard money) and unregulated funds (soft money).”
The RFR petition argues that America is in “grave danger” because of “woke” policies pushed by the “radical” left and that DeSantis is the solution.
“The America-First agenda MUST be revived. Governor Ron DeSantis is the next Great American President – like Ronald Reagan – who will turn our country around. We must organize NOW – we cannot wait and let the Left take another election. I am Ready for Ron! Let Ron know I’m behind him and want to join his team!” the petition read.
RFR said in January that it plans to spend over $3 million to support DeSantis and organize a campaign in case the Republican decides to seek the GOP presidential nomination, Fox News reported at the time.
DeSantis is not affiliated with the PAC and efforts by RFR could possibly harm the governor, according to DeSantis’ political team. His campaign reportedly pointed to a memo from last year, before he was reelected in the 2022 midterms, that stated contributions to the non-affiliated PAC “do not benefit Governor DeSantis or his re-election.”
“In reality, the PAC is actively taking financial resources away from Governor DeSantis and his re-election efforts. While possibly well-intentioned, these types of organizations tend to cannibalize support that would normally be offered to the candidate directly,” DeSantis’ 2022 reelection campaign legal counsel Benjamin Gibson argued in a memo cited by Fox News.
The governor’s team also said RFR “is apparently engaging in an aggressive media campaign to promote itself, running political ads and actively soliciting contributions from supporters of Governor DeSantis.”
Newsweek has reached out via email to DeSantis’ office for comment.