State Watch

Sources say DeSantis undercutting fundraising for Republican National Convention because of personal dispute: report

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is directing his top fundraiser to tell donors not to give to the upcoming Republican National Convention set to take place in Jacksonville, Fla., due to a personal dispute between himself and his former campaign manager, Susie Wiles, The New York Times reported Thursday. 

DeSantis directed his top fundrasier, Heather Barker, to tell donors to opt out of giving to the convention due to his dispute with Wiles, the Times reported, citing multiple people familiar with the governor’s actions. 

The convention planners are looking to raise tens of millions of dollars in a short period of time for the event amid the pandemic, and Wiles is serving as an informal adviser to the convention planners, according to the report.  

Barker has been explicit with donors in Florida that DeSantis will not be helpful with rounding up money for the convention due to Wiles’s involvement, the Times reported.

The governor also told the president that Wiles, who led Trump’s Florida team in 2016, was overrated as an operative and had little to do with Trump winning the state four years ago, according to the report. 

Barker denied any attempt to encourage people to withhold support from the convention.  

“We are encouraging all people to participate and we hope it’s a success for the president,” Barker told the Times. “We just hope everything is a success and want it to be, however they want to structure things and put things together.”

The newspaper said that Wiles declined to comment. 

A spokesperson for DeSantis’s office was not immediately available for comment when contacted by The Hill. 

Brian Ballard, the top Republican lobbyist in Florida and one of the party’s major fundraisers, told the Times that DeSantis has been supportive of the convention but he has not been asked to make fundraising calls due to the state of the coronavirus pandemic. 

“We have not asked him to take time to make fund-raising calls,” he told the Times. “It wouldn’t be appropriate, with all the health issues, to distract from what he’s working on. Anyone who tries to lay some implications on that is absolutely not aware of the facts.”

Florida continues to endure one of the largest coronavirus outbreaks in the U.S.

The state reported nearly 9,000 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 233,000. Florida also recorded 120 COVID-19 deaths Wednesday, marking a record high for the state

DeSantis campaigned for the Republican National Convention to move to Florida, after Trump feuded with North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) over the implementation of health protocols to stop the spread of the coronavirus when the event was going to take place in Charlotte. 

Most of the festivities, including the speeches, will now take place in Jacksonville, Fla. Trump will deliver his speech on Aug. 27 at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena. 

Florida is a key swing state in the 2020 election. 

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told the Times Wiles was a “key player in 2016.” 

“We leaned on her to help us win Florida. She remains well-liked and well-respected by the president, who has made clear he wants to ‘get the band back together.’ In addition to that, she was chief of staff, or played a leadership role, for two former mayors of Jacksonville,” she said. 

Tags Coronavirus Florida Kellyanne Conway RNC Ron DeSantis Susie Wiles
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