Major donor supporting Gov. DeSantis’s presidential bid says he may stop giving money: report

The largest individual contributor to a super PAC supporting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s presidential bid says he may stop giving money to the effort if DeSantis doesn’t win over more donors and voters.

The super PAC, “Never Back Down,” filed its first mid-year report last week, detailing approximately $130 million in contributions. The bulk of that money, $82.5 million, came from Empower Parents PAC, an organization previously known as Friends of Ron DeSantis, the PAC that supported both of his runs for governor. Several months after the 2022 election, the political committee changed its name and leadership, before giving its leftover money to Never Back Down.

The next largest sum of money came from Robert Bigelow, a Las Vegas-based businessman who gave more than $20 million, according to Federal Elections Commission records. Bigelow, a hotel entrepreneur who also founded Bigelow Aerospace, gave to the super PAC in late March, before DeSantis officially launched his campaign for president.

In an interview Friday with Reuters, Bigelow said he will not give the political committee any more money unless DeSantis attracts new major donors and takes a more moderate approach.

“He does need to shift to get to moderates. He’ll lose if he doesn’t … Extremism isn’t going to get you elected,” Bigelow told Reuters.

When the news outlet asked what policies Bigelow did not support, he mentioned the bill DeSantis signed in April that banned abortions in the state after six weeks of pregnancy. He told Reuters he had communicated his concerns to the DeSantis campaign.

Bigelow also told Reuters he would not give more money until he sees that DeSantis is able to generate more on his own, saying his contributions are already too big a share of the overall contributions.

The next largest contribution came from a Miami-based organization, Faithful & Strong Policies, Inc., which gave a total of $5.5 million. Beyond that, two individuals gave $2 million each, and four others gave contributions totaling $1 million each.

Looking at some of the largest contributions from the Jacksonville area, Aubrey Edge, the president and CEO of First Coast Energy, gave $350,000. First Coast Energy is the parent company of the Daily’s chain of gas stations and convenience stores. Dream Finders Homes gave $250,000, and Petro Services, Inc., a company tied to First Coast Energy, gave $150,000.

The mid-year report from Never Back Down also listed more than $33.7 million in expenditures during the first half of 2023. The expenditures included advertising, mailers, other campaign materials, and operational expenses such as payroll. Super PACs are allowed to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money, however, they are not allowed to coordinate any of those expenditures with the candidate or campaign they are supporting.

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