Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Files Ethics and Elections Complaints Against High-Ranking Members of Governor DeSantis’ Executive Staff

Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Nikki Fried has filed ethics and elections complaints against three high-ranking members of Governor Ron DeSantis’ executive staff. The complaints were filed against Chief of Staff James Uthmeier, Legislative Affairs Director Stephanie Kopelousos, and Director of Policy and Budget Chris Spencer.[0] Fried cited recent investigative reporting from NBC News and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, which alleged that the governor’s staff illegally solicited federal campaign contributions from lobbyists, as the basis for the complaints.

Fried alleges that the staff members participated in the illegal solicitation of campaign contributions from lobbyists, along with an “unethical and illegal” solicitation of endorsements for DeSantis’s presidential campaign during meetings with lawmakers regarding the state budget. In addition to filing complaints with the Florida Commission on Ethics and the Florida Elections Commission, Fried has also filed complaints against the same individuals with the Florida Elections Commission.

In a statement, Fried stated that the accusations were a severe breach of state regulations and moral principles, and that it would be unethical to disregard them.[1] If confirmed, those would be further instances of Ron exploiting his official position for personal benefit.[2] Public officials are employed to serve the people of Florida, not line Ron’s pockets.”

Fried’s complaints come after reports of unethical and illegal solicitation of campaign contributions from lobbyists. Redfern, a DeSantis spokesman, called the complaints “politically motivated attacks,” adding that “If the executive team wants to fundraise, knock doors, or volunteer their free time, more power to them – they have First Amendment rights like every American.”[0]

The Washington Post has obtained records indicating that Ron DeSantis was provided a golf simulator by affluent contributors to be utilized in the Governor’s Mansion throughout his tenure as Florida’s governor. The University of Florida board of trustees’ chair, Mori Hosseini, loaned a golf simulator to Governor DeSantis for installation in the gym of the governor’s mansion, with exclusive access granted solely to the governor and his family. According to the Post, the simulator models vary in price from $27,000 to almost $70,000.[3]

Fried believes that the complaints system is designed to help prevent this kind of abuse of power, and the people of Florida deserve swift and just rulings from both commissions. The system for handling complaints is created to prevent such misuse of authority, and the citizens of Florida merit prompt and impartial judgments from both committees. Future elected officials need to know that they can’t intimidate and harass people into getting what they want — Ron could use that reminder as well,” she said in a statement.[1]

The allegations against the governor’s staff represent a challenge for DeSantis as he considers a run for president in 2024. The complaints also highlight the ongoing tension between Fried and DeSantis, who have clashed over issues such as COVID-19 response and voting rights.

0. “Fried files ethics complaints over DeSantis campaign solicitation allegations” South Florida Sun Sentinel, 21 Jun. 2023, https://www.sun-sentinel.com/2023/06/21/fried-files-ethics-complaints-over-desantis-campaign-solicitation-allegations

1. “Florida Democratic Party Files Ethics and Elections Complaints Against the Office of Governor Ron DeSantis – Florida …” Florida Democratic Party, 21 Jun. 2023, https://www.floridadems.org/2023/06/21/florida-democratic-party-files-ethics-and-elections-complaints-against-the-office-of-governor-ron-desantis/

2. “Fried files ethics complaints against DeSantis’ state staff over political fundraising” Miami Herald, 21 Jun. 2023, https://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/article276621961.html

3. “Donor lent DeSantis golf simulator for governor’s mansion: report” Yahoo News, 21 Jun. 2023, https://news.yahoo.com/donor-lent-desantis-golf-simulator-184847607.html

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top