Republicans have spent the last several days trashing Disney following the corporation's public opposition to Florida's "Don't Say Gay" law — and Gov. Ron DeSantis has led the charge, threatening to revoke legal protections that have allowed the company to essentially act as its own government, complete with running local public services, on the site of the Walt Disney World resort complex.
But, wrote columnist Scott Maxwell for the Orlando Sentinel, the potential revocation of these special favors raises a key point: the Florida GOP for decades has given these favors, and more, to Disney in the first place when the company was lavishing campaign money on the Republican Party — and DeSantis himself was at the forefront of some of these efforts. Only now that the company cut off contributions following criticism of the anti-LGBTQ bill is he taking a different line.
For example, noted Maxwell, Disney got a special carveout from a bill to fine social media companies for banning politicians.
"At the governor’s press conference last week, DeSantis railed against the special treatment Disney got in the social media-crackdown bill, calling it 'ridiculous' and 'embarrassing' and 'never appropriate,'" wrote Maxwell. "Nobody was angrier about the law Ron DeSantis signed than Ron DeSantis … after he’d been cut off. DeSantis said: 'I don’t support special privileges in law just because a company is powerful and they’ve been able to wield a lot of power.' Except he did. He literally signed those special privileges into law."
Disney's favoritism isn't even unique, Maxwell pointed out — Florida politicians have been cutting similar deals with other corporations for years.
"Universal Orlando, for instance, has pocketed millions of dollars through a ridiculous exploitation of a tax break intended to help 'high crime' neighborhoods. The program was intended to spur investments in blighted neighborhoods. Yet Universal has gotten millions of dollars — way more than anyone else in Florida — for swanky restaurants and four-star hotels," wrote Maxwell. "Then there’s the anti-solar energy law legislators passed last month. The Miami Herald documented how Florida Power & Light wrote the bill, delivered it to the office of the GOP Senate sponsor and then followed up with a $10,000 contribution."
"This is one of the rare instances where DeSantis and the usually savvy Republicans screwed up politically — by shining a white-hot spotlight on the ugly inner workings of their pay-for-play political machine," concluded Maxwell. "Because in vowing to end these special favors for Disney, everyone is now asking: Well, why did you allow them in the first place?"
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