The new group backing DeSantis has a connection to George Santos


A veteran political operative who played a mysterious role in the George Santos scandal now appears to be heading a newly formed super PAC supporting Ron DeSantis in Iowa.

The new super PAC, created amid turmoil in the network of outside organizations supporting DeSantis' presidential campaign, includes Thomas Datwyler as its treasurer. Datwyler was also briefly listed as Santos' campaign treasurer after the Republican congressman first came under scrutiny for his widespread lying.

On Monday, the super PAC, Renewing Our Nation, spent more than $283,000 mailing pro-DeSantis mailers across Iowa, according to a federal campaign finance filing. The content of the emails was not immediately clear. The source of the group's financing and the reason for its participation in the presidential race were also not revealed. The group is not required to submit detailed documentation to the Federal Electoral Commission until January 31.

Aside from the Santos connection, Datwyler's resume adds an extra layer of curiosity: He's listed as an executive in the compliance arm of the growing political firm owned by Jeff Roe, who until last weekend was Never Back's chief strategist. Down, the main super PAC supporting Mr. Desantis' campaign.

Roe, who resigned from Never Back Down on Saturday, had no immediate comment Monday.

Another oddity is that the person listed as the manager of Renewing Our Nation's sole supplier was unable, like Santos, to finish his term in Congress.

That person, former Rep. Trey Radel of Florida, runs Cross Step Media, a Florida-based company that sent out the pro-DeSantis mailers in Iowa, according to the document.

Radel, a Republican, was elected to represent the state's 19th congressional district in 2012, but served only one year, resigning under pressure in early 2014 after pleading guilty to misdemeanor cocaine possession. (He had purchased 3.5 grams from an undercover police officer. His record was expunged after a year of probation.)

Renewing Our Nation has not yet reported any expenses other than advertising.

Datwyler and Radel did not respond to requests for comment. Neither did Never Back Down and the DeSantis campaign.

As DeSantis' campaign has faltered, outside groups supporting him have become a frequent source of distractions. Never Back Down and the DeSantis campaign have sometimes worked at cross purposes, and their disagreements have been conveyed through public memos, an awkward dance required by the ban on coordination between campaigns and super PACs. (Never Back Down and the DeSantis campaign were accused Monday of violating that ban by a nonprofit watchdog group.)

Tensions between the two sides have become so extreme that last month, three DeSantis allies started their own super PAC, Fight Right, to air negative television ads in Iowa about DeSantis' closest rival, former Gov. Nikki Haley of Carolina from the south.

Now, Renewing Our Nation has entered the political arena as the third super PAC to support DeSantis' presidential bid. The group formed on Nov. 20, according to campaign finance documents. His address is listed as a PO Box in Wisconsin. There was little information available about the group in FEC filings.

It is not uncommon for major political donors to channel their contributions through newly formed entities to create a separation from existing groups.

Datwyler played a brief but strange supporting role in the saga of Santos, the former New York congressman. After Santos' original campaign treasurer resigned in January amid revelations about irregularities in documents filed by Santos, Datwyler briefly appeared in documents as his treasurer.

The deal made headlines when Datwyler's attorney sent a letter to the FEC, accusing Santos of including him in the position without his permission. Mr. Datwyler “would not take over as treasurer,” attorney Derek Ross wrote, adding that there appeared to be “some disconnect.”

A dizzying sequence of events then followed in which Santos named a new, previously unknown treasurer, leading to speculation that this person might not be real, but rather another alter ego of the congressman.

Santos has denied such claims and has argued that Datwyler came up with a plan to monitor and monitor Santos' campaign documents using an associate's name, rather than his own, to avoid the consequences of being associated with the controversial congressman. . .

The Daily Beast's report supported Mr. Santos' account, leading to one notable change: Mr. Datwyler's own lawyer, Mr. Ross, wrote to the FEC to retract his earlier letter.

“Unfortunately, recent public reporting has caused me to lose confidence in the accuracy and veracity of the information provided by Mr. Datwyler,” Ross wrote.

Maggie Haberman contributed with reports.

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