Election 2024

Ron DeSantis slammed for busing supporters into Iowa in humiliating letter from state GOP

Lynchburg, Virginia USA - April 14, 2023 - Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaking at Liberty University on April 14, 2023.
Ron DeSantis Photo: Shutterstock

Republicans in one Iowa county have accused 2024 presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis’s campaign of misleading voters after a political action committee supporting the Florida governor’s White House bid bused supporters into the state to participate in an event earlier this month.

Last week, Muscatine County Republican chair Daniel Freeman sent a letter to the pro-DeSantis Never Back Down PAC demanding that it “cease and desist all attempts to contact and collaborate with the Muscatine County Republican Party of Iowa,” and accusing the PAC of “unlawful and unethical collaboration … with Republican County Parties in the State of Iowa,” The Messenger reports.  

As the Washington Post reported earlier this month, the DeSantis campaign has outsourced its ground game to the super PAC, which can accept donations of any amount from billionaires and corporations. Never Back Down is running a massive field operation, reportedly paying canvassers up to $22 an hour to knock on doors in Iowa and other states, in contrast to the more traditional method of using campaign volunteers to canvas voters.

The arrangement may give DeSantis an edge in the Iowa caucuses, the first major contest in the 2024 Republican primaries, which require large groups of voters to show up for their candidate and devote hours to the process. But as the Post noted, the arrangement also tests the boundaries of campaign finance law, which prohibits PACs from coordinating directly with campaigns.

Earlier this month, the PAC bused in DeSantis supporters to march in Blackhawk County’s My Waterloo Day parade.

“He is the first presidential candidate that is going out and buying and paying for representation … he’s not building a grassroots organization,” Freeman said of DeSantis. “And it could very well be that he uses Never Back Down because he can’t garner state support from individual residents in Iowa. Therein lies the problem. He is misleading the public of Iowa by sending busloads of people to a parade and they don’t even live in the area and in fact, most of them don’t even live in the state of Iowa.”

Freeman wrote the letter due to the possibility that county parties were being funded by corporate money, a practice that is more or less banned in Iowa, according to The Messenger.

But Never Back Down claims it did not coordinate with any political organizations for the Blackhawk County parade. The PAC also claims to have a special account with individual donations from citizens that it uses to contribute to other political organizations in Iowa. An independent campaign finance attorney told the outlet that the Never Back Down arrangement sounds legal.

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