May 26, 2022 - Business

Dozens of billionaires back Gov. Ron DeSantis

Illustration of Ron DeSantis' head poking out from a pile of money.
Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

At least 42 billionaires and members of billionaire families, worth a combined $275 billion, have contributed to Gov. Ron DeSantis' re-election campaign, a war chest he can raid repeatedly to survive 2022 and beyond, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune's Zac Anderson reports.

Why it matters: That kind of support from the richest of the rich raises all sorts of questions about the influence of wealth on public policy.

  • DeSantis has generally been a friend to the business sector, Anderson notes, with some of his billionaire backers benefitting from moves such as a tax break on racing tickets he approved last month.

Driving the news: The USA Today Network-Florida reviewed every contribution to DeSantis' political committee in 2019, 2020 and 2021 that was five figures and over, plus many of the larger 2022 contributions through the end of April, searching out billionaires.

  • They found Floridians like Publix heiress Julie Jenkins Fancelli, who also helped fund the Jan. 6 "Stop the Steal" rally, and Tampa's Edward DeBartolo Jr., former owner of the San Francisco 49ers and founder of Tampa-based real estate company DeBartolo Holdings.

Yes, but: They also found out-of-state rich people like Julia Koch of Kansas, DeSantis' wealthiest investor, plus Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn and four members of the DeVos family, including former President Donald Trump's Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

Context: Of the 42 billionaires and billionaire family members identified, only 17 gave to DeSantis when he first ran in 2018, Anderson reports. The rest have come on since DeSantis' national profile rose during the pandemic.

Of note: DeSantis raised $114 million through the end of April for his re-election bid, a staggering sum that puts him in elite company for political fundraising.

Go deeper: "More than 40 billionaires back Florida Gov. DeSantis' reelection campaign. Who are they?"

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