'Who paid for these flights?' Mystery surrounds how DeSantis' massive travel tab is being settled
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaking at Lynchburg, Virginia, on April 14, 2023. (Shutterstock.com)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is jetting around the country and abroad ahead of a widely-anticipated 2024 presidential campaign — but no one seems to know who is paying for it, reported POLITICO on Tuesday.

"In late February, a jet owned by the company associated with the Fontainebleau Hotel flew from Tallahassee to Newark ahead of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ appearance on Staten Island. That same day a jet owned by a central Florida developer flew from Newark to Philadelphia to Chicago to Tallahassee when the governor also made stops that same day in Pennsylvania and Illinois," reported Gary Fineout.

"Who paid for these flights? The governor’s office said no taxpayer money was spent on these flights in connection with DeSantis’ three-city stop that day. A spokesperson who has been affiliated with the governor’s political operation declined to comment. There was nothing listed in the governor’s political committee campaign finance report for February."

The only thing DeSantis is revealing about the trips is that they are not taxpayer-funded, said the report — but the actual way they're being funded is unclear.

"Meanwhile, flight tracking records show that a private chartered jet last week flew from Austin, Texas, to Japan to South Korea to Israel to London and then, over the weekend, stopped in Boston before finally winding up in Tallahassee. Those stops coincide with the governor’s movements for the past week," said the report.

"It has been previously stated that this trip is being paid for by private donations to Enterprise Florida, the public-private economic development agency that is about to be dismantled by the Legislature. But a spokesperson for Enterprise Florida has not responded to questions as to why a chartered jet — which is likely to be tremendously expensive — was used for DeSantis’ trip. The agency was also asked about how much this will ultimately cost."

All of this comes as the legislature is advancing legislation that would carve a hole in Florida's rigorous public transparency laws, allowing DeSantis to conceal security and transportation expenses, a move that would hide information not just about travel but "personal information unrelated to the official duties of the protected person" — which would include campaign stops and meetings with donors, and even apply retroactively to trips and meetings he has already taken. Republicans claim this is necessary to protect DeSantis' security and safety.

"In the not-so-distant past news organizations uncovered questionable uses of the state jet for a variety of top Florida politicians, including then-Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink and then-Attorney General Bill McCollum. That led to candidate and then Gov. Rick Scott to sell off Florida’s state-owned jets. It was easy for Scott to do that since he owned a private jet," noted the report. "But soon after DeSantis was elected, state legislators reversed that. They are now poised to put a cloak of darkness over all of it."