Ron DeSantis administration officials solicit campaign cash from lobbyists

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Officials working for Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration — not his campaign — have been texting lobbyists in Florida asking for political donations for DeSantis’ presidential bid, a violation of traditional norms that raise ethical and legal issues raised Many here in the state capital were shocked.

NBC News reviewed text messages from four officials in the DeSantis administration, including those directly in the governor’s office and in senior positions in state agencies. They urged the recipient of the message to get involved in the governor’s campaign via a special link, which appears to be designed to track who donates to a “bundle” program.

“The bottom line is that the government seems to be keeping tabs on who donates, using state personnel to do so,” said a longtime Florida lobbyist. “You are in a prisoner’s dilemma. They will remain in power. We all understand that.”

NBC News does not identify the specific employees who sent the text messages, as this could help identify the lobbyists who received and passed on the messages.

The DeSantis office did not respond to a request for comment, but an administration official admitted they were raising funds for the campaign.

“I’m not sure what every EOG employee does with their First Amendment rights in their free time and after work, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Team EOG somehow raised more money than lobbyists,” the administration official said in a text Message pertaining to an acronym for Office of the Governor. “I can confirm that I (and many other employees) have personally donated.”

“What the hell am I supposed to do? I have a lot of business to do with the DeSantis administration.

Florida lobbyist

In general, political operatives are tasked with raising money for political campaigns, and official supporters are excluded from these operations.

The legality of the requests depends on a number of factors, including whether they were sent through government phones or government property. A longtime Florida suffrage attorney said even if DeSantis volunteers were privately raising funds for the campaign outside of government time, it still raises ethical questions.

“At least it still smells gross, even if they’re home at 9 p.m., using their personal phone, and contacting lobbyists who magically met them in their personal capacity and not through their role in the governor’s office,” he said called a lawyer. “Here is an abuse of public positions that is obvious to anyone who is paying attention.”

But the practice was still breathtaking for those long-serving in Florida politics.

NBC News spoke to 10 Republican lobbyists in Florida, all of whom said they couldn’t recall being so openly asked for donations by government officials — especially at a time when the governor still has to make state budget decisions.

In this process, DeSantis uses its veto pen to cut funding from projects in which the same lobbyists they are asking for political money are professionally involved. Most lobbyists said they felt pressure to support the governor’s campaign.

“What the hell am I supposed to do?” said one lobbyist. “I have a lot of business to do with the DeSantis administration.”

“The ethics behind it are questionable at best, especially if the budget hasn’t passed yet,” said another Republican lobbyist.

“It moves very close to what is ethical and potentially legal. “It’s government employees using their official position to solicit money from people whose livelihoods depend on access to state government,” said a Florida lobbyist.

“By using a bundle code, it looks like certain employees get some credit for the campaign,” the person added. “That is very questionable.”

DeSantis kicked off his presidential campaign Wednesday in a Twitter Spaces conversation with Elon Musk that was marred by technical glitches that at times overshadowed the actual event.

On Thursday, DeSantis’ campaign announced it had raised $8.2 million in its first 24 hours, a staggering sum.

DeSantis has portrayed much of his political personality as a political maverick whose goal is to “drain the swamp.” His campaign store quickly began offering “DeSantis breaks systems” t-shirts after the Twitter rollout failed, which his campaign says was due to such high interest that the social media platform just couldn’t handle it.

“The practice perfectly provides opponents with the DeSantis corrupt swamp meme. For no f—– reason,” said another veteran Florida Republican. “It’s hard to be Mr. Break the Internet and Swamp when you’re doing that. Really stupid.”

Republican advisors and fundraisers in other states told NBC News they had never heard of a similar situation where state employees were trying to get political donations, and it would raise serious questions if their clients tried a similar approach.

“If any of my clients were to send out fundraising links through Legislative staffers, we would have a tough conversation,” said a Republican fundraiser who campaigns for the federal election.

The person added that regardless of the legal ramifications, taxpayer-funded employees soliciting political money from lobbyists look bad.

“Whoever is telling these kids to do this is out of their minds,” said another Florida Republican lobbyist.

Alley Einstein

Alley Einstein is a USTimesPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Alley Einstein joined USTimesPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing

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