DeSantis faces FEC complaint over campaign ties to Super PAC


A campaign watchdog group filed a complaint Monday with the Federal Election Commission against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' campaign and a super PAC backing his presidential bid, accusing them of being a “textbook example” of illegal coordination. campaign.

In its complaint, the Campaign Legal Center argued that the super PAC, Never Back Down, had effectively served as DeSantis' campaign, detailing work it has done, such as providing private air travel, financing an expensive ground game in early nominated states , provide debate strategies and organize events along the way. In turn, DeSantis and his wife, the group says, provided guidance on how to send messages to Never Back Down.

The complaint relies heavily on news reports, in The New York Times and elsewhere, that for months have described Never Back Down's extraordinary role in DeSantis' candidacy. In recent weeks, the super PAC's leadership has been roiled by concerns about advertising messages and the legality of its close ties to the campaign, triggering a series of high-profile departures.

“This baseless complaint is just another example of how the left is terrified of Ron DeSantis and will stoop to anything to stop him,” said Andrew Romeo, communications director for the DeSantis campaign. “The FEC has made it clear that it will not take action based on unverified rumors and innuendo, and that is the false information on which this politically motivated complaint is based.”

DeSantis said Monday that the turmoil at the wealthy Never Back Down “was not a distraction for me.”

Speaking to reporters after an event at a factory in Adel, Iowa, DeSantis said he had no idea about the weekend resignation of Jeff Roe, Never Back Down's influential chief strategist.

“I'm not involved in any of that,” he said. “As you know, it is a separate entity and therefore these things just happen and are not in my purview.”

DeSantis has said he is the drama-free candidate, compared to former President Donald J. Trump. But the chaos in Never Back Down has undermined his narrative. When DeSantis addressed reporters after his Monday event, half the questions were about Roe's departure.

For months, Never Back Down has been plagued by disagreements over its strategy and direction, when it became clear that former Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina was threatening to usurp DeSantis' position as the leading Republican alternative to Trump, who maintains a commanding lead in the first state polls. DeSantis allies had wanted Never Back Down to focus more on its polling and voter turnout operation, and less on television ads.

The FEC complaint sets off a chain of events: DeSantis and his campaign have 15 days to respond to the complaint, after which the FEC's general counsel will review the case and make a recommendation to the six-member commission.

The FEC, split evenly between Democratic and Republican members, often deadlocks on questions of whether campaigns have violated the law. An FEC spokeswoman said the commission would not comment on potential enforcement issues.

While the behind-the-scenes drama will likely go unnoticed by many voters, the chaos at Never Back Down is expected to be a cause for concern for Republican mega-donors, who are increasingly looking to support Ms. Haley.

The Campaign Legal Center has filed four complaints with the FEC regarding DeSantis and Never Back Down, including one accusing the PAC of violating the ban on “soft” money in federal elections. The group also accused Trump and a committee supporting him of violating the soft money ban, and accused a super PAC backing former Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey of accepting illegal contributions.

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