The Seminole Tribe of Florida gave $1 million to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ reelection bid in August, adding to the $3 million the Tribe has given to the Republican Governors Association, a major DeSantis donor.
DeSantis approved a gambling deal that gave the Tribe exclusive rights to offer sports betting in the state.
Sports betting is estimated to be a multi-billion market in Florida, so securing exclusive access to it could be extremely lucrative for the Tribe, although the deal currently is tied up in court.
The Tribe has been giving big money to RGA, which acts as a pass through that allows some of the largest special interests in Florida to funnel money to the governor without as much scrutiny.
USA TODAY Network – Florida was the first to report that the Tribe had donated $2 million to the RGA in February. The Tribe followed that contribution with another $1 million donation to RGA in May.
Now the Tribe is donating directly to Friends of Ron DeSantis, the governor’s political committee.
Alex Sink, a Democrat who served as the state’s chief financial officer and made an unsuccessful bid for governor in 2010 against then GOP candidate Rick Scott, told USA TODAY Network – Florida in June that the Tribe’s $2 million contribution to RGA looks like payback for DeSantis approving the gambling deal last year. Now the Tribe is up to $4 million in contributions that could be used to benefit the governor’s reelection bid.
Gary Bitner, a spokesman for the Seminole Tribe, said in June that the organization “doesn’t comment on reports of specific campaign contributions.”
“In general, the Tribe does contribute to issues and candidates in Florida and other states, according to its best interests,” Bitner said.
The DeSantis campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the Tribe’s contribution.
Friends of Ron DeSantis collected another $2.2 million between July 30 and Aug. 5, according to a campaign finance report released Friday. The committee currently has $125 million in cash on hand with less than three months until the November election.
The Tribe’s $1 million contribution ranks among the largest single donations to the governor’s political committee, behind only the $10 million donated by Las Vegas tycoon Robert Bigelow, $5 million from billionaire hedge fund founder Ken Griffin, multiple seven digit contributions by RGA and $1.7 million from the Republican Party of Florida.
Follow Herald-Tribune Political Editor Zac Anderson on Twitter at @zacjanderson. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org