Ron DeSantis’s congressional office spent hundreds of dollars for travel around the time he attended a 2016 conference sponsored by a right-wing figure with a history of racist rhetoric, raising new questions about whether taxpayers paid for the trip.
DeSantis, a Republican who resigned from Congress in September to focus on his run for Florida governor, came under fire for attending the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s conferences four times between 2013 and 2017, including the 2016 event in Palm Beach, Fla.
Horowitz’s organization paid for DeSantis to attend the 2017 edition, but a DeSantis spokesman told The Washington Post last month that he paid his own in 2015 and 2016.
The campaign provided The Post with receipts for 2015 but not 2016.
Congressional spending records show that in 2016, DeSantis’s office spent $420.10 on “commercial transportation” on Nov. 9, the day before the conference started, and another $442.20 on Nov. 17, four days after it wrapped up.
Horowitz has a long history of making racist, conspiratorial and incendiary comments, particularly against Islam.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, in 2015, he said then-President Barack Obama was “systematically destroying America.” In 2014, he called Obama an “anti-American radical,” a Muslim, a “pretend Christian” and a “pretend American” whose whole agenda in office has been to defeat America.”
He also opposed reparations for African-Americans, saying that their “demands for special treatment” were “only necessary because some blacks can’t seem to locate the ladder of opportunity within reach of others.”
Horowitz isn’t the only extremist in DeSantis’s orbit.
In September, DeSantis said he would not return a campaign contribution from a donor who had recently posted on Twitter of Obama, “F— THE MUSLIM N—–.”
Politico reported that the donor, Steven M. Alembik, had contributed more than $22,000 to DeSantis over the years and lined up a speech for him in February at President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach.
Alembik moved his event to Trump’s club after several organizations canceled their events after Trump said “very fine people” participated in a right-wing rally in Charlottesville, Va., that attracted neo-Nazis, members of the Ku Klux Klan, and other racist and anti-Semitic groups.
The groups grew violent toward counter-protesters, culminating in the death of Heather Heyer, who was killed after a neo-Nazi plowed his car into a group of people near the rally site.
“I’d like to come here and show our support for the president of the United States,” Alembik said of holding his event at Mar-a-Lago, according to Politico.
In a debate this week, DeSantis tried to defend attending Horowitz’s conferences, saying he wasn’t aware of his rhetoric.
After the moderator read a statement DeSantis had made praising Horowitz, DeSantis said, “Well, how the hell am I supposed to know every single statement somebody makes?”