DeSantis, super PAC accused of breaking campaign finance law in federal complaint


Video above: DeSantis suffers major blow to presidential campaign

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A watchdog group has accused Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis of breaking campaign finance laws by coordinating with the Never Back Down PAC, according to a complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission.

The complaint, filed Monday by the Campaign Legal Center, claims DeSantis’s campaign illegally coordinated with the main super PAC supporting his 2024 presidential bid to influence its activities.

According to the CLC, DeSantis complained that Never Back Down stopped running ads targeting Nikki Haley.

“Intermediaries then conveyed DeSantis’s displeasure to the super PAC’s board, which relayed the message to staffers in charge of strategic decision-making,” the CLC said in a news release. “That’s a clear example of the coordinating ‘conduct’ that federal campaign finance laws prohibit: Campaigns working in cooperation, consultation, or concert with super PACs, including a candidate making a ‘request or suggestion‘ about where, when, and how a super PAC should be airing communications.”

The CLC said when PACs coordinate with candidates, it allows corporations and other donors to avoid federal contribution limits.

“Never Back Down has effectively operated as fully sanctioned arm of the DeSantis campaign, with the supposedly ‘independent’ group working to directly subsidize and underwrite DeSantis’s candidacy — paying a major portion of DeSantis’s travel and event costs, voter canvassing and data collection efforts, and more,” the watchdog group said.

News Channel 8 has reached out to DeSantis’ campaign and the Never Back Down PAC for comment.

Never Back Down has raised more than $130 million from less than 200 donors, with contributors, including “individuals, corporations, and a Florida state PAC formerly known as ‘Friends of Ron DeSantis,’ which DeSantis previously established and used to raise funds supporting his state campaigns” — giving “six- and seven-figure sums,” the 39-page complaint states.

“Independence is sorely lacking in the relationship between Never PAC and the DeSantis campaign,” the complaint said.

Last week, the Associated Press reported that the DeSantis campaign requested that Never Back Down continue to air an advertisement that was taken off air. The ad targeted Nikki Haley and ran in Iowa and New Hampshire from October until mid-November. NBC News reported that the ad was pulled because it was “backfiring.”

The complaint also mentions a “leaked” document from the DeSantis campaign regarding strategic information that is legally not allowed to be shared with PACs.

The Washington Post reported that DeSantis’ campaign and Never Back Down also entered a lease agreement to lease planes at “lower market rates” than if they had separate agreements.

“Never PAC has also paid for an astounding share of DeSantis’s events and travel across the state of Iowa, which hosts the first presidential nominating contest,” the complaint said. “The super PAC plans events, invites DeSantis to speak at the events as a featured guest, and buses him between events alongside super PAC staff, thus allowing DeSantis to meet and great Iowa voters and financial supporters with his travel and event expenses fully paid for by the super PAC.”

The complaint alleges that Never Back Down paid for DeSantis’ travel to 92 of the 99 counties in Iowa, as well as provided polling and research data to the campaign, including opposition research.

Read the full complaint below

The CLC is asking the Federal Election Commission to enact civil penalties “sufficient to deter future violations” and for an injunction to block DeSantis and Never Back Down from violating the campaign finance laws in the future.

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