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For Ron DeSantis, Sunday, February 19, marked the start of another busy week without an official presidential bid.
He left Tallahassee that night on the Florida hotelier's private jet, headed to Newark, and then met with police in Staten Island on Monday morning. Next, he boarded a twin-engine Bombardier for a speech in suburban Philadelphia, then flew to the Knights of Columbus Hall outside Chicago before returning home to his day job as Florida governor.
This trip and others like it were made possible by the convenience of private air travel — and the abundance of wealthy, in some cases clandestine benefactors footing the bill.
As he prepared for the White House, Mr. DeSantis relied heavily on his wealthy allies to drive him around the country to test his message and raise his profile. Many of those donors were familiar boosters from Florida, some of whom had prior business interests in the state, according to a New York Times review of Mr. DeSantis' travels. Others have been shielded from the public by a new nonprofit, an arrangement that has drawn criticism from ethics experts, The Times found.
Mr. DeSantis, who formally announced his candidacy on Wednesday, is not the first politician to take advantage of the speed and comfort of a Gulfstream jet. Candidates and public officials of both parties have long argued that the benefits of donating planes are worth the political risk to special interests or disconnecting from voters.
But ethics experts say the trip — and the nonprofit’s role in particular — shows how Mr. DeSantis’ long-overhang will allow him to bypass rules designed to prevent donors from exercising covert influence. As a declared federal candidate, he faces stricter requirements for accepting and reporting such donations.
"Voters deserve this information because they have a right to know who is trying to influence their elected officials and whether their leaders are putting the public interest above those of their big-money donors," said Trey Trump, president of the Campaign Legal Center. The Republican who leads the FEC, Fauport said, "Governor DeSantis, whether he intends to run for president or not, should clearly and fully disclose who is providing support for his political efforts."
Representatives for the governor's office and Mr. DeSantis' political operations declined to comment or provide details on who arranged and paid for his flights.
Mr. DeSantis has aggressively followed his state's ethics and campaign finance laws to avoid flying commercially. And he has gone to great lengths to prevent transparency: He recently signed a bill exempting travel records held by law enforcement going back to the beginning of his term, exempting public records requests.
Mr. DeSantis is still required to report contributions and spending in his campaign finance records, but the new law could prevent law enforcement agencies from releasing more details, such as itineraries, flight information and even a visitor list to the governor's mansion. (Mr. DeSantis said he was working on security concerns.)
In February, Mr. DeSantis traveled to Newark on a jet owned by Jeffrey Soffer, who, according to several lawmakers and lobbyists, Soffer had sought to amend state law to allow him to expand gambling operations to his Miami Beach resort.
The February tour and other trips were arranged by And To The Republic, a Michigan-based nonprofit, according to Tori Sachs, its executive director. The nonprofit started in late January, as Mr. DeSantis began testing the waters across the country, and quickly became a big part of his warm-up campaign. It has organized nearly a dozen speaking engagements featuring governors in at least eight states.
Ms Sacks would not say how much was spent on the flight or who paid for it.
Take advantage of loopholes
It was unclear how Mr. DeSantis would account for travel arranged by the nonprofit without violating state ethics laws. Florida generally prohibits public officials from accepting gifts from lobbyists or people who, like Mr. Soffer, employ lobbyists — unless the gifts are considered political contributions.
But both Ms. Sachs and a person involved in Mr. DeSantis' recent trip said they did not view the trip as a political contribution or gift. The person was not authorized to discuss the matter and requested anonymity. The group's approach "is to provide transportation for special guests," Ms. Sachs said, "in full compliance with the law."
However, Florida's ethics rules leave plenty of loopholes for politicians. For example, under certain circumstances, public officials may accept paid travel to deliver speeches as part of their official duties. The NEC also allows public officials to accept gifts from lobbyists through third-party groups.
Mr. DeSantis, who has spent most of his career in public service since taking office in 2019 and whose net worth was $319,000 last year, has been steadily relying on others to pay for private flights.
His political committee has accepted private jet travel from about 55 wealthy individuals, mostly Florida donors and companies affiliated with them, including heads of oil and gas companies, developers and home builders, and health care and insurance executives, according to a Times analysis of campaign finance records.
Additional travel donations were sent to the Florida Republican Party, which Mr. DeSantis often used as a third-party pass.
Six lobbyists and donors who spoke to The Times said they had become accustomed to receiving calls from the governor’s political aides asking for planes — at least once to get home from out of state at the last minute, most recently to fly to Japan flight.
The trip to Japan, part of an overseas trip by DeSantis to showcase his foreign policy prowess, is believed to be part of the governor's official duties and was organized in part by Enterprise Florida, a public-private business development group. DeSantis' office would not disclose the details. How the payment was made, and would not say how he traveled. Enterprise Florida did not respond to a request for comment.
Mr. DeSantis' office rarely releases information about unofficial events. (In February, when he traveled to four states in one day, his public schedule simply read: “No scheduled events.”) And Mr. DeSantis brushed aside past criticism of his travels. 2019 South Florida Sun-Sentinelsrevealed a previous flightFly to New York on a plane owned by Mr. Soffer. Mr DeSantis said he followed due process.
"It's all legal, ethical, and there's no problem," he told reporters.
A spokesman for Sofer declined to comment.
warm up activities
Soon after winning re-election in November, the governor turned to building his national image. He began traveling the country, visiting Republican activists, dining with donors, speaking at events and promoting a new book, "The Courage to Liberty: Florida's Blueprint for American Renewal."
Part of his travel expenses were paid for by the Friends of Ron DeSantis, a Florida political committee that endorsed his run for governor and reported its donors. Just last month, the committee had more than $80 million on hand — money that is expected to be diverted to the federal super PACs supporting his presidential bid.
Since November, the committee has received 17 political travel donations from nine donors. They include Maximo Alvarez, an oil and gas distributor, and Morteza Husseini, a Florida homebuilder who has often lent planes to the governor and has become a close ally.
But trips paid for by the nonprofit And To The Republic will not appear on state records.
The group is registered as a social welfare organization under Section 501(c)(4) of the federal tax code, which means its primary activities cannot be related to political activity. Other potential and official presidential candidates have ties to similar groups, often referred to as dark money syndicates because they are not required to disclose their donors.
Ms. Sachs, the nonprofit's founder, said it was formed to promote "national policy solutions that set an agenda for the country," and described Mr. DeSantis as the first elected officials to "collaborate" with the group one. Another official, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, appeared with Mr. DeSantis at the group event in her home state.
To The Republic hosted Mr. DeSantis at events in South Carolina, Nevada and Iowa, all early major primary states. Some of these campaigns have been billed as the "Florida Blueprint," borrowing the title from Mr. DeSantis' book.
The arrangement made it difficult to track Mr. DeSantis' travel and expenses. The Times and other news outlets used a public flight tracker to verify the governor's use of Mr Soffer's plane, first reported bypolitician.
Other trips arranged by the group included stops outside Philadelphia and Chicago on Feb. 20, as well as a journey back to Tallahassee, where Mr. DeSantis was on a plane operated by Orlando developer Charles Whittall. company registration. Mr. Whittle, who donated $25,000 to Mr. DeSantis' political committee in 2021, said he leased his plane through a leasing company and that he did not offer it as a political contribution.
In March, he traveled to Cobb County, Georgia, on a plane owned by an entity linked to the Georgia-based restaurant chain Waffle House. The company did not respond to a request for comment.
Other potential DeSantis rivals have made headlines for their use of private jets. both asgovernor of south carolinaandambassador to the united nations, Nikki Haley has been criticized for flying in a private jet owned by a wealthy South Carolinian.
2020, Associated PressReportDonors have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars in private jet travel to Donald J. Trump's fundraising committee. Donors included Ben Pogue, a Texas businessman whose father was later granted a presidential pardon.
Still, Mr. Trump, who owns his own plane, has repeatedly tried to draw attention to Mr. DeSantis' travels, claiming that the private jet was in fact a campaign donation and that "Ron DeSantis is a full-time candidate for president."
Shane Goldmacher and Michael C. Bender contributed to the report. Kitty Bennett and Sheelagh McNeill contributed research.
May 22, 2023
An earlier version of this article incorrectly described Ron DeSantis' career. He's been in public service for nearly his entire career, but not his entire career.
how we handle corrections
Alexandra Berzon is a Pulitzer Prize-winning political department investigative reporter focusing on electoral systems and voting. She was previously an investigative reporter for The Wall Street Journal, covering the gambling industry and workplace safety. @alexandra bosson
Rebecca Davis O'Brien covers campaign finance and money in the US election. She previously worked at The Wall Street Journal, where she was part of a team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting. @rebecca dobrien
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Joseph Lau owns the biggest private jet on earth. The business tycoon's private plane is worth $367 million. However, the aircraft was originally priced at $153 million, but the price increased after Lau added modifications to it, worth $214.Who has two private jets? ›
Mark Cuban, American billionaire businessman
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Gulfstream G650 Private Jet? Here you go..What model plane does Trump own? ›
The Boeing 757-200 is registered in the United States as N757AF (ICAO hexadecimal AA3410) and was built in 1991. It was originally delivered to Denmark's Sterling Airlines and by 1993 was operated by Mexico's TAESA. In 1995, it became a corporate jet for Paul Allen's enterprises.
The Private Jet belonging to Elton John was shown to have arrived at Sydney Airport at 12.44am after his final Australian show on Monday, well past the airport's 11pm noise curfew. The Daily Mail reported that Elton's private Bombardier Global Express appeared in the airport's 'list of exempt aircraft”.How much do you tip a private pilot? ›
There is no expectation to tip a pilot, especially if there is a cabin attendant aboard. Pilots are paid a private jet pilot salary, and the larger the aircraft, the more they earn.How much do private jet pilots make? ›
|Annual Salary||Monthly Pay|
TSA regulations state that for charter jets carrying more than 61 passengers, the passengers are required to pass through normal security. Light private jets, which normally seat anywhere from four to eight people, are therefore exempt from going through the same inspection as commercial flight passengers.How much is a tank of gas for a private jet? ›
The cost of jet fuel runs between $3 and $10 a gallon, and you can expect it to cost you more than $1,000 to fill up each time you need to fill the gas tank, and this cost is for a small private jet.How many pounds is 1 gallon of jet fuel? ›
Jet-A: 6.75 pounds per gallon.
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Fighter jets and a private plane
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Most Expensive Super Midsize Private Jets
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Total Flight Hours In 2022: 546,153
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The JetBlue fleet at a glance
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- Cessna Citation Latitude. ...
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Because he also has a Puma jet, which was a perk he got at his sign-up deal as creative director of Puma Basketball. That one is a Gulfstream V ultra-long-range jet, with a black and white theme and Puma's logo, and Jay-z's last album title on the registration number.Does Justin Bieber own a jet? ›
The performer of BABY acquired in 2014 a version of the Gulfstream G650, a model of the iconic manufacturer Gulfstream Aerospace, with incredible performance.
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Cessna 680 Citation Sovereign
While not all the planes featured in Indiana Jones films were real, its leading actor Harrison Ford owns a very real Cessna Citation Sovereign (and seven other aircraft).
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I LOVE YOU.” Miley Cyrus has revealed her private plane was forced to make an emergency landing after the aircraft was struck by lightning. The singer shared a video to her social media accounts which showed the moment her private jet was struck by lightning in a “major” electrical storm.Which singer owns a private jet? ›
Jay-Z and Beyoncé's private jet
Nice gift at 40 million dollars! Since the couple famous for their music, enjoy this private jet all comfort for their travels and tours. Moreover, they also use this private jet for other occasions when their children travel with them and travel the world as a family.
10 seater private jet cost can vary greatly. from the cheapest pre-owned model to the latest and most expensive private jet for 4 passengers. Price ranges are typically between $5,000,000 and $50,000,000.How much was Kim Kardashian's private jet? ›
When the billionaire finally decided on a private jet, she chose luxury. Kim Kardashian reportedly purchased the Gulfstream G650ER she calls 'Kim Air' for US$95 million but ultimately paid US$150 million for renovations and design.
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Generally speaking, private jet card costs range from about $25,000 for 25 hours to over $200,000 for 100 hours. With private jet cards, customers have the flexibility to choose from different pricing tiers, which can typically be found for different flight times.How many jets Does Bill Gates Own? ›
Gates has been fairly open about his private plane, saying on Reddit nearly a decade ago that "owning a plane is a guilty pleasure." According to aircraft charter broker Private Jet Charter, Gates has four private jets, a seaplane and a helicopter, although CBS News has not confirmed this information.How rich do you need to be to own a private jet? ›
Therefore, the wealth of those who possess private jets rises in proportion to the size of their planes. The typical owner of large luxury private jet has a net worth between $60 million and $70 million. The average wealth of owners of midrange and super-midsize aircraft is around $120 million.How much is Oprah Winfrey jet? ›
Gulfstream G650 Private Jet?Does Jeff Bezos have his own plane? ›
In 2015, Bezos replaced his Dassault Falcon 900EX with a new G650ER before purchasing a second in 2019, both under his holding company. The capable aircraft once shattered records for speed and range, though these records now belong to the Bombardier Global 8000.How much did Bill Gates private jet cost? ›
Gates owns four private jets, which has drawn criticism from supporters. The private jet collection is reportedly worth $194 million and includes two Gulfstream G650ERs worth $70 million each and can carry up to 18 passengers.Is private jet risky? ›
On a commercial aircraft, there are fewer than 0.01 fatalities per 100,000 hours of flying. On a private plane, that number jumps to 2.3 fatalities per 100,000 hours flown.Are private jets high maintenance? ›
According to estimates on the cost of private jet maintenance, most jet owners end up shelling out between $500,000 up to $1,000,000 each year on ongoing expenses related to maintenance, storage, repairs, insurance, fuel and more.
Cost savings: Renting a private jet is significantly more economical than buying your own plane. When you charter, you'll pay only for the flights you use, rather than for the entire purchase price of an aircraft that may spend much of its time sitting in the hangar.Who owns the most expensive jet in the world? ›
Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal's Airbus A380 – 502 million USD. The world's most expensive private jet belongs to Prince Alwaleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia who owns an Airbus A380 with a price tag of over 500 million USD.Who owns Air Force One? ›
Air Force One is maintained and operated by the Presidential Airlift Group, part of the White House Military Office. The Airlift Group was founded in 1944 as the Presidential Pilot Office at the direction of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.