TALLAHASEE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ week-long commerce mission in April that took him across the globe value almost $1.6 million, in keeping with data launched by the DeSantis administration to POLITICO.
The majority of the associated fee went to pay to constitution two personal jets for the journey that took the Republican governor, together with first girl Casey DeSantis and different state officers and enterprise leaders, to stops in Japan, South Korea, Israel and England.
Enterprise Florida, the now-shuttered financial growth company that organized the journey, maintained that no public tax cash was used to pay for the journey. However in a abstract doc launched Friday, it defended the choice to rely totally on constitution flights that have been considerably costlier than industrial airways.
DeSantis took the worldwide journey — which resulted within the governor assembly with international leaders and prime officers of United States allies — simply weeks earlier than he jumped into the race for president and was seen as a method for him to construct international coverage credentials. He met with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
It was simply DeSantis’ second journey overseas since he had turn into governor in 2019, a distinction from former Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who steadily went on abroad commerce mission, together with common visits to air exhibits in France and England.
DeSantis has use of a state jet for his official travels, however he has steadily relied on constitution flights or privately-owned planes for political and private journeys, together with for his presidential marketing campaign. His marketing campaign spent roughly $1.5 million on journey prices through the first six weeks of the marketing campaign.
Scrutiny has mounted over his journey habits since he started his presidential marketing campaign, together with an ethics grievance filed towards the governor over airplane journeys linked to a guide promotional tour earlier this yr.
Enterprise Florida data present that $1.49 million for the price of the worldwide mission went towards transportation, whereas greater than $66,000 was spent on accommodations and almost $9,800 on meals. One other $20,000 was spent on “applications and mission administration.”
Information present that of the overall spent on transportation, almost $1.39 million, was for the price of two constitution jets that flew a complete of 20 passengers across the globe.
When DeSantis went on a visit to Israel in 2019 with members of the Florida Cupboard and a delegation of almost 100 folks, that the associated fee totaled greater than $442,000, with greater than $131,000 going to pay the prices of then-Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and different state workers.
Enterprise Florida, a private-public company that was dismantled this yr by the Republican-controlled Legislature and had a part of its operations subsumed into the Division of Commerce, stated in a report detailing the journey that it relied on personal donations that was a part of its money reserves constructed up over a number of years to cowl the commerce mission prices.
POLITICO requested in early Might for copies of the constitution airplane contracts in addition to the names of personal donors to Enterprise Florida for the primary 4 months of the yr. That request was additionally made to the Division of Commerce after Enterprise Florida was absorbed into the state company.
The data turned over on Friday didn’t embrace the names of personal donors, though a spokesperson for the Division of Commerce in an e-mail stated the one donations throughout that point interval got here from members of the Enterprise Florida board.
The governor’s workplace didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark.
It’s not clear when the abstract was written nevertheless it acknowledged that “after conducting an intensive logistical evaluation, together with conducting a pre-trip by way of industrial airways to evaluate feasibility, it was decided that constitution transportation was the one sensible choice for these visiting all 4 nations on the commerce mission.”
Enterprise Florida additionally added that “constitution transportation assured these people may arrive and depart from nations inside the time-frames required to realize all mission goals and attend conferences with stakeholders. As such, the expense related to constitution flights was deemed affordable and obligatory to satisfy the distinctive necessities of this commerce mission.”
Home Speaker Paul Renner, a Republican from Palm Coast and staunch supporter of DeSantis, was behind the push to shutter Enterprise Florida, which was first created within the 90s. On the opening day of the 2023 session, Renner advised legislators that “Enterprise Florida has overpromised and underdelivered for years and drains funds from greater priorities. If this have been Washington, D.C., it might stay on ceaselessly, unchanged and unchallenged, however the Florida method requires us to retain solely what works and eradicate what doesn’t.”
This yr, the state Legislature to defend DeSantis’ publicly-funded journey data from the general public.