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DeSantis’ Penchant for Extreme Legislation Alienates Major Donors

April 16, 2023

Heads up: It’s Political! (But what’s not these days?)


Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, and the Republican supermajority in the Florida House and Senate are passing incredibly extreme, right-wing legislation, which will surely help DeSantis to curry favor with an extreme, right-wing Republican base in order for DeSantis to become Republican nominee for president in 2024.

One such bill is Fl SB 1718, which would turn humane actions toward undocumented persons into “human smuggling,” punishable as a third-degree felony and possibly a second-degree felony for one even assisting a family member (not to mention teachers assisting students and their families). A pointed summation (and questioning) from the March 26, 2023, Tampa Bay Times:

Imagine driving your elderly mother to a doctor’s appointment and being charged with a third-degree felony. Or, having your neighbor over for dinner only to be arrested. Imagine your pastor giving a young couple shelter in your church, only to be taken into police custody.

If passed, SB 1718 would criminalize lending a helping hand if the object of that help is an undocumented immigrant — it tears up the very fabric of social ties and trust that brings cohesion to a community. This isn’t about punishing immigrants who help immigrants — U.S. citizens would be criminalized2 too for lending support. Which leads to the question: What is the real purpose of this bill?

What, indeed, is the real purpose of this bill?

I’ll get back to that in a moment. But first, another observation:

What is interesting about SB 1718 is that it lets employers (including those who might hire undocumented workers as domestics) off the hook a lot easier than those “human smugging” teachers, clergy, or even adult children of undocumented immigrants: The language of the bill allows for such employers to argue that they didn’t “knowingly” hire undocumented workers, and even if found guilty, the first offense is a “noncriminal violation” carrying a maximum fine of $1000 “regardless of the number of aliens with respect to whom the violation occurred.”

The second offense is a misdemeanor carrying a $2500 fine as “a separate offense” per “alien.”

So, wealthier Floridians employing undocumented workers in their homes are offered not a felony but a wrist slap– which could certainly help such folks to turn their heads to the extremism at the heart of this bill.

So, what is the real purpose of this bill?

It seems that one purpose is to help DeSantis appeal to an extreme-right, Republican base in order to garner the Republican presidential nomination.

As of this writing, DeSantis has not officially declared his intention to run for president, but his actions are certainly pointing in that direction, including his “book tour” that took him out of the state even as Fort Lauderdale faced catastrophic flooding on April 13, 2023. According to the April 14, 2023, Insider, DeSantis, had not yet even phoned the mayor of Fort Lauderdale. However, as Politico reports, DeSantis had time to leave Ohio on April 13, 2023, fly to Tallahassee late (c. 10:30PM) in order to quietly sign into law his abortion ban before leaving the state again and heading to Virginia 6 AM on April 14, 2023.

Here’s info on DeSantis’ sneak-signed law, Florida’s “Hearbeat Protection Act,” as CBS News reports:

Senate Bill 300, titled the “Heartbeat Protection Act,” prohibits abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, with exceptions for abortions that risk the life of a mother and abortions up to fifteen weeks for pregnancies caused by instances of rape, incest or human trafficking. 

The bill makes it a third-degree felony for physicians or anyone who “actively participate(s) in” an abortion in violation of the ban. It also prohibits state funds being used in any way to help a woman get an abortion from another state, and using “telehealth” or mail to receive abortion medication. …

The ban comes as DeSantis is poised to launch a 2024 presidential run after Florida’s legislative session ends in early May.  …

Even after being signed by DeSantis Thursday, the actual enactment of the bill is dependent on a lawsuit in the state’s supreme court over the state’s 15-week abortion ban that Republicans passed in 2022, according to the Florida chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, a nonprofit organization involved in a lawsuit over the ban. The 15-week ban is still in effect as the state’s highest court, which has four DeSantis-appointed judges, considers when to hear the case.

Imposing felonies seems to be the legislative way in Florida of late; as a result of a new law in January 2023, the state’s teachers, librarians, and other school officials are packing up library books for fear of being charged with a third-degree felony for allowing the public access to non-government-approved books. But freedom and liberty.

The abortion ban cited above imposes possible third-degree felonies for any medical professional who assists, say, a woman who discovers at 10 weeks that her fetus has no skull. According to DeSantis’ law, since this woman’s life is not in danger, she should (must!) carry the pregnancy to term and give birth to a child without a skull (a child with a 5 percent chance of living one full week and no more).

Surely such cruelty is not good for any forthcoming DeSantis-as-Prez campaign.

A man who sneaks into town to sign such a bill into law under cover of darkness surely knows as much.

On April 14, 2023, as Fort Lauderdale was flooding, DeSantis was in Lynchburg, Virginia, speaking at conservative Liberty University– where he avoided specifically mentioning the abortion ban he just signed into law at midnight. From Politico:

On Thursday night, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law a six-week abortion ban inside his state.

On Friday morning, he barely mentioned it during an address at the preeminent religious conservative school in the country.

During his speech at Liberty University in Virginia, the Republican governor attacked woke ideology, highlighted his ongoing fight with Disney, mentioned his wife’s battle with cancer and touted his electability. It was familiar territory from a governor eyeing a presidential bid. What stood out was what wasn’t in it.

Abortion was given only a passing reference, underscoring how uncomfortable the topic makes leading Republicans, even as Republican-dominated legislatures aggressively pursue more restrictive laws. …

During DeSantis’ 20-minute speech at the evangelical university he only had this to say about abortion: “We have elevated the importance of family and promoted the culture of life.”

So, here’s the rub:

In order to get the Republican nomination, DeSantis needs all of this punative, “felony” legislation. However, in order to win the presidential election, such fascist extremism is DOA.

Republican megadonors are noticing DeSantis’ extremism.

On April 15, 2023, the Financial Times published an article, entitled, “Top Republican Donor Sours on Florida Governor’s Stance on Social Issues.” From the article:

Top Republican donor Thomas Peterffy [worth $26B] is halting plans to help finance the US presidential bid of Florida governor Ron DeSantis due to his extreme positions on social issues.

“I have put myself on hold,” the billionaire told the Financial Times.

“Because of his stance on abortion and book banning . . . myself, and a bunch of friends, are holding our powder dry.” …

In January, Peterffy told the FT that he was a fan of DeSantis and was “looking forward” to backing a presidential bid by the governor.

But now, he says: “I am more reluctant to back him. We are waiting to see who among the primary candidates is most likely to be able to win the general, and then put all of our firepower behind them.”

Ahh, the DeSantis quandary: How to sell out to the base and also win the general election?

Might be a good idea to sign into law Florida legislation that does not include the words, “third-degree felony.”

Ron DeSantis


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  1. All it means is the U$ual $u$pect$ will funnel their dough through darker channels.

    PS. Time to get a Fediverse/Mastodon account. Mathstodon has LaTeX !!!


    Jon ( )

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