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Pro-DeSantis super PAC Never Back Down parts with CEO of 9 days, two others, in latest shake-up

The super PAC aligned with Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis has parted ways with its interim CEO and two other top officials Saturday, sources told CNN, a shakeup that came as a surprise to some within the fundraising organization.

One person with knowledge of the departures – including those of interim CEO Kristin Davison, Communications Director Erin Perrine and Director of Operations Matt Palmisano – described them as firings. However, CNN hasn’t yet been able to reach any of the three to share their version of events.

A source familiar with Palmisano’s exit called the departures distracting and said that they came as a surprise to people at Never Back Down.

Davison, who took the helm of Never Back Down following Chris Jankowski’s departure on November 22, served as CEO for nine days.

Politico first reported the news of Davison’s departure.

“Scott Wagner will now serve as Chairman of the Board and interim CEO of Never Back Down. Never Back Down has the most organized, advanced caucus operation of anyone in the 2024 primary field, and we look forward to continuing that great work to help elect Gov. DeSantis the next President of the United States,” Dave Vasquez, Never Back Down’s press secretary, said in a statement to CNN.

Davison was not in attendance at Saturday’s Never Back Down event in Sioux City, Iowa, where DeSantis appeared before heading to Newton to complete his tour of Iowa’s 99 counties.

The three exits are just the latest major departures of PAC leadership in recent weeks, with Adam Laxalt stepping down as chairman on Friday, citing a need to return to his family and law practice.

Roy Bailey, a Dallas businessman and fundraiser for DeSantis, told CNN Sunday that while “the organization has done yeoman work” on the ground, “there are too many cooks in the kitchen.”

“It seems like the noise from the PAC has constantly overwritten the good works that he’s doing,” Bailey said. “I think it’s really a smart time to pare the organization of the PAC back and limit it to those that are most loyal to the governor, and who will be committed to continuing the good work at the PAC, but eliminate the noise.”

Despite the shakeup, an Iowa Republican consultant noted from their perspective that the ground operation at Never Back Down appears strong and unaffected.

While separate from the campaign operation, the Never Back Down name and DeSantis have been closely aligned throughout his candidacy, given he often appears at their events as a “special guest” and consistently travels on the organization’s bus, especially throughout Iowa.

A new pro-DeSantis super PAC, Fight Right, was formed in recent weeks at least in part because negative ads run by Never Back Down were becoming too closely associated with the candidate, according to a source familiar with the situation.

Amid the fallout, Jankowski departed Never Back Down, sharing in a statement to CNN that the environment became “untenable for me to deliver on the shared goal” of electing DeSantis.

Just hours after DeSantis celebrated his 99th Iowa county event with Gov. Kim Reynolds and Iowa evangelical leader Bob Vander Plaats, news broke of Davison’s departure from Never Back Down.

This story has been updated with additional information.

CNN’s Jessica Dean contributed to this report.

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