Trump super PAC files ethics complaint against DeSantis over ‘shadow campaign’

Donald Trump’s super PAC announced on Wednesday that it had filed a state-level ethics complaint against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, accusing him of running a “shadow campaign” for the GOP nomination without formally filing paperwork to run for president.

The complaint, which came in the form of a letter sent by the Make America Great Again PAC to the Florida Ethics Commission, requests an investigation into the state’s governor for supposedly receiving gifts in support of a “shadow” presidential campaign which the Trump PAC alleges is being run alongside Mr DeSantis’s duties as governor.

As evidence, the Trump PAC’s lengthy complaint cites examples of Mr DeSantis visiting early GOP primary states and meeting with prominent Republican officials in preparation, according to news reports, for a national bid for office. It also cites the growing group of organisations dedicated to fundraising in the event that Mr DeSantis does run for president, such as the PAC dubbed “Run, Ron, Run!”.

"Governor DeSantis knows, or should know, that his shadow presidential campaign is illegal under federal election law, Florida ethics laws prohibiting illegal gifts from political committees, and Florida ethics laws prohibiting illegal lobbying payments,” states the Trump PAC’s letter.

It goes on to say that the Florida Ethics Commission should investigate the matter and consider punishments up to and including removal from office. The agency is not required to act based on the former president’s recommendation, and like the federal Department of Justice makes independent decisions about which investigations to take on.

The broad swipe at Mr DeSantis from the former president comes as part of a renewed assault that Mr Trump launched over the past week. Mr Trump visited Iowa for his first campaign rally of the new year on Monday, and trashed the governor both to his adoring fans as well as to a cadre of journalists traveling with him on his plane.

In the latter conversation, he told reporters that he regretted his 2018 endorsement of the Florida governor in his tight race against Andrew Gillum. And in another moment, this time in a prerecorded video put out on Truth Social, he attacked Mr DeSantis’s record while claiming that he himself was actually responsible for the state’s successes.

Polls show Mr DeSantis competitive in a head-to-head matchup against the former president, but other GOP candidates have already signaled that they will be contenders for the nomination as well, potentially meaning that the anti-Trump vote will be split for at least the first few contests.