At least two dozen of Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ 2022 campaign employees are currently on the payroll of the Florida Republican Party, according to the party’s Q1 2023 expenditure report.
DeSantis and his team have been coy about the governor’s presidential aspirations, with the governor speaking in hypothetical terms about his candidacy and declining to directly confront front-runner former President Donald Trump. The Florida GOP’s filings with Secretary of State Cord Byrd’s office tell a different story, however. The state party’s expenditures list includes payroll for 24 current or former employees of the DeSantis campaign, including former state press secretary Christina Pushaw.
The Florida GOP’s hiring of speechwriter Nate Hochman and former DeSantis congressional aide Dustin Carmack have been previously reported, but the DeSantis team’s broader staffing strategy has not. The Daily Caller was tipped to the story when one Florida Republican staffer emailed from a rondesantis.com email address while purporting to do business for the state GOP.
The DeSantis campaign gave nearly $9.6 million to the state GOP in 2022, according to campaign documents filed with the Secretary of State’s office, and has paid the party more than $200,000 as a vendor during Q1 2023. The state GOP returned $3 million to Friends of Ron DeSantis, the official DeSantis campaign committee, in Q1 2023.
Florida GOP chairman Christian Ziegler told the Daily Caller that the state Republican Party supports DeSantis “just as any state party does for the sitting Governor of their state.”
“As for the speculation about potential Presidential campaign staff, I haven’t had discussions with the governor about that,” he said in a statement. (RELATED: Republicans Make Historic Gains Of Registered Voters In Florida)
Two Republican operatives, both granted anonymity to speak candidly, pushed back on Ziegler’s description.
One Florida Republican operative familiar with the DeSantis team’s relationship with the party told the Daily Caller that “it is an open secret that they’re running the campaign out of the Florida GOP.”
“Anyone with eyes can see what they’re doing,” a Republican operative, who worked on a different 2022 gubernatorial campaign, said.
Florida state elections law permits statewide candidates to accept unlimited funds from political parties for “polling services, research services, costs for campaign staff, professional consulting services, and telephone calls.” In addition to the DeSantis team, at least five campaign staffers for Attorney General Ashley Moody were listed on the Q4 2022 filing. Three of the five Moody staffers remain on the state GOP payroll.
“They’re allowed to do this under Florida state law, but it’s certainly very odd to have them paying for staff this late,” one GOP strategist familiar with Florida election law told the Daily Caller.
All 24 of the DeSantis campaign employees on the Florida GOP’s Q1 payroll worked on the 2022 campaign, while Carmack, Hochman, and several other recent hires were not yet listed. Of those 24 employees, 17 list themselves as currently employed by Ron DeSantis for Governor on LinkedIn.
Overall, the Florida GOP kept 41 employees on its payroll in Q1 of 2023, down from 76 during Q4 of 2022. Several departing employees, including former DeSantis campaign hands, remain contracted with the party as consultants, while others have gone to work for the state legislature or in DeSantis’ executive office.
DeSantis campaign spokeswoman Lindsey Curnutte declined to comment for this story.
DeSantis has traveled to early primary states Iowa, Nevada, and New Hampshire, ostensibly to promote his new book. He has also met with major GOP donors while reportedly emphasizing his no-nonsense approach to governing. In an interview with Piers Morgan, DeSantis said that his administration has “no daily drama, focus[es] on the big picture and put[s] points on the board.” (RELATED: Trump PAC Files Ethics Complaint Against Ron DeSantis, Gov’s Office Fires Back)
Multiple news outlets have reported that DeSantis is planning on a May presidential campaign launch, at the end of the Florida legislature’s spring session. Florida maintains a “resign to run” law, which would require DeSantis to give up the governorship unless the state legislature repeals it. Some political observers have speculated that a bill currently being considered by the state Senate’s Committee on Ethics and Elections could include a repeal, although Senate President Kathleen Passidomo downplayed the likelihood of it being included.