Pier operator donates $1 million to DeSantis political committee amid battle over cruise ship traffic

The operator of a Florida pier that gets most of Key West's cruise ship traffic has donated nearly $1 million to the political committee of Gov. Ron DeSantis, The Miami Herald reports. According to the Herald, the donation from Delray Beach-based businessman Mark Walsh is notable because legislation seeking to overturn a voter-approved referendum to limit cruise traffic may soon find itself on DeSantis' desk.

Walsh gave $995,000 to Friends of Ron DeSantis, the political committee operated by the governor, according to data uncovered by the Herald's investigation.

"Walsh leases the state-owned terminal on Key West Harbor in front of the Margaritaville Resort, which his family owns along with dozens of other hotels," the Herald reports. "His company helped finance the opposition to the three referendums approved by Key West voters by wide margins in November. The effort involved a disinformation campaign, funded in part by a 'dark money' scheme that included contributions from the cruise industry, which publicly stayed out of the campaign."

Three new ordinances, which were hugely popular with voters in November, ban cruise ships with over 1,300 passengers from docking at the city port and limit the total number of cruise that leave the area each day to 1,500. One of the ordinances gives preference to cruise ships with favorable environmental records.

"After the measures passed, legislation emerged by Sen. Jim Boyd, a Bradenton Republican and Rep. Spencer Roach, a North Fort Myers Republican, to cancel out their vote to limit cruise ship traffic in the Florida Keys," the Herald's Mary Ellen Klas writes.

Read the full report over at The Miami Herald.