Ron DeSantis chartered migrant flights from GOP donor, report says

Ron DeSantis chartered migrant flights from GOP donor, report says

A week before two flights with mostly Venezuelan immigrants landed unannounced on Martha’s Vineyard after leaving San Antonio, the Florida Department of Transportation paid an airline $615,000.

State records show that the September 8 payment went to “UNAUTHORIZED ALIEN EXCHANGE PROGRAM.”

The records also show that the state paid the same company, Vertol Systems Company Inc, another $950,000 for the same reason on Sept. The Independent previously informed.

In total, the company received more than $1.56 million from Governor Ron DeSantis’s $12 million plan to send migrants to Democratic states and cities, widely derided as a political stunt to protest President Joe Biden and in a attempt to paint “sanctuaries”. like a hypocrite.

But Vertol Systems Company Inc and its president have also contributed thousands of dollars to Republican officials in Florida, according to state campaign finance records first reported by the interception.

Florida records show that a GOP state legislator – whose father is on the Florida Transportation Commission, which oversees the state’s Department of Transportation – received $1,000 from Vertol Systems in June.

Jay Trumbull Jr isn’t the only GOP recipient of the company’s campaign donations.

In 2016, Vertol Systems also contributed $2,500 to a political action committee associated with US Representative Matt Gaetz, according to federal campaign finance records.

Vertol President and CEO James Montgomerie also donated $5,000 to Gaetz’s affiliate PAC in 2017, the campaign’s financial records show.

Trumbull’s father, Jay Trumbull Sr, also donated $2,500 to Governor DeSantis’s 2018 gubernatorial campaign, and a PAC associated with his Northwest Florida company Trumbull Water Services donated $10,000 to the political action committee associated with the governor’s re-election campaign.

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The IndependentVertol Systems’ requests for comment — including how the company uses state funds — were not returned. Your site appeared to be offline for several days.

A $12 million item in Florida’s state budget — inserted on page 494 of a 518-page document — is supported by “interest earnings associated with the Federal Coronavirus State Tax Recovery Fund,” a part of the Rescue Plan. US$1.9 trillion signed into law by President Biden, with universal GOP opposition in Congress.

The governor himself also criticized the American Rescue Plan as “primarily designed to bail out poorly governed states”, despite having state aid within the package.

About $350 billion in state funding under the American Rescue Plan is intended to support state and local pandemic relief efforts and public health response and keep government services running against the economic strain.

The Florida budget states that the state Department of Transportation “may, upon receipt of at least two quotes, negotiate and enter into contracts with private parties, including common carriers, to implement the program” and “may enter into agreements with any federal agency applicable to implement the program”.

During the legislative debate over the budget earlier this year, Florida Democratic lawmakers questioned whether the plan was legal.

In a letter to the Republican leadership on September 19, Florida Democratic lawmakers demanded their support to stop the “misuse of taxpayer dollars before it happens again.”

“This use of state funds is not what was intended or described in the law, nor was it discussed in the debate,” wrote lawmakers Evan Jenne and Fentrice Driskell.

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Governor DeSantis and his adviser and campaign have repeatedly defended the flights and suggested there could be others.

At a September 16 press conference, the governor said the flights to Martha’s Vineyard are “just the beginning” of his plans.

“We already have an infrastructure in place. There’s going to be a lot more going on,” he said.

“The legislature gave me $12 million,” he added. “We’re going to spend every penny of this to make sure we’re protecting the people of the state of Florida.”

The migrants sent to Martha’s Vineyard were not in Florida, but in the San Antonio, Texas area, where they were recently processed and released by immigration authorities while waiting for their asylum claims to be brought to a judge.

Civil rights lawyers in Massachusetts representing three of the migrants have filed a federal class-action suit against the DeSantis government, alleging a “fraudulent and discriminatory scheme” to transport a group of people, including families with young children, as part of a political coup.

The suit alleges that the governor, members of his administration and unnamed defendants in San Antonion worked to coerce newly freed immigrants to board flights with false promises of job opportunities and financial assistance, among other benefits. They eventually landed on the island with only voluntary support from local groups and emergency assistance from state agencies before being transferred to a larger state shelter operation on the mainland.

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