In recent months, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has received more than $ 100,000 from a mystery donor who, according to federal authorities, may have been illegally created to hide the likely source of donors. But it’s still unclear who is behind the Delaware-based entity or its political largesse.
The contribution to a political committee controlled by DeSantis comes as he stepped up fundraising efforts ahead of his 2022 re-election campaign. DeSantis, who is also widely suspected of running for the White House, raised nearly $ 30 million in his political committee, Friends of Ron DeSantis, since the start of the year.
Of that transport, $ 110,000 came from Tread Standard, LLC, which was the subject of a complaint by the Federal Election Commission during the 2016 election cycle. The complaint, from the American Democracy Legal Fund, which was led by a former DNC official, was filed after Tread Standard donated $ 150,000 to a super PAC supporting the failed presidential candidacy of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.
The FEC Advocate General’s office released a report alleging that the tread standard was likely put in place to hide the “real source” of the contribution. He did not draw any direct conclusions about the identity of the donor, but a general counsel’s report made direct reference to Miami-based Lennar Corporation, one of the nation’s largest homebuilding and development companies. .
Red flags were raised for FEC lawyers because the six-figure contribution to the Bush-supporting super PAC was given less than two months after Tread Standard’s incorporation in Delaware, and because there had no sign that the entity had done anything that generated its own income, according to a report by the FEC’s office of the attorney general.
The report revealed that documents related to Tread Standard listed a Lennar employee and the company’s Miami address, leading FEC attorneys to include in their official reports that the actual source of the political contributions could be. being Lennar’s leaders, including Jon Jaffe, the co-CEO and chairman.
“Overall, the record in this case allows a reasonable inference that Tread Standard may not have been the true source of the funds he donated to the committee,” reads the attorney’s report. General of the FEC. “Instead, it appears to have been used as a conduit, possibly by Jaffe or others in Lennar.”
Lennar spokeswoman Danielle Tocco told POLITICO on Thursday that the company knew nothing about Tread Standard.
“Tread Standard is not a subsidiary of Lennar,” she said. “A list of all of our subsidiaries is filed each year with our annual report on Securities and Exchange Commission Form 10-K. Lennar is not familiar with the activities of these entities.”
The FEC Advocate General’s report indicates that the contribution likely violated federal law which prohibits “political contributions on behalf of others”. He recommended that the FEC investigate further to gather additional facts, which never happened.
“As you have seen, we actually did not investigate although I strongly believe we should have had it,” FEC commissioner Ellen Weintraub said in an interview on Wednesday. “People are creative when they try not to say who is not behind the money. This is one of the many techniques used over the years. “
Weintraub voted in favor of the finding that the contribution violated federal campaign finance law, but the committee’s GOP majority disagreed. In June 2018, Weintraub released its own statement of reasons exploding the contribution.
“The Super PAC reported that the contribution came from the LLC, foiling the public interest in who is seeking to influence our elections,” she wrote at the time. “For some of these transactions, we still don’t know the true source of the money. We may never know.
Florida’s campaign finance law is regulated separately from federal contributions, but states that “a person may not make any contribution through or on behalf of another, directly or indirectly.”
“It’s illegal in Florida to hide your identity when you donate, but it’s rarely disputed because Florida allows corporate donations,” said Brice Barnes, a veteran of Florida Democratic fundraising. “It would be necessary to prove that the front company exists only to hide the donor.
Tread Standard had never made a state-level contribution to Florida until he sent a check for $ 50,000 to the Florida Republican Party in November. Since then, he has made three separate contributions totaling $ 110,000 to the DeSantis committee, according to campaign fundraising records.
Florida Republican Party Executive Director Helen Aguirre Ferré, who is also DeSantis’ political spokesperson, did not return a request for comment on whether she knew who funded Tread Standard’s contribution or whether he there were concerns about the money.
Lennar gives very few contributions in Florida under his corporate name. Since 2018, he has donated less than $ 75,000, of which very little has gone directly to applicants and none directly to DeSantis.