The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019

Tag: ron desantis

Feds Indict 'Don't Say Gay' Legislator For COVID Aid Fraud

Florida Republican state lawmaker Joe Harding, the author of the highly-criticized and some say unconstitutional “Don’t Say Gay” law, has been indicted by a Department of Justice grand jury on federal fraud charges.

“A federal grand jury has returned a six-count indictment against Joseph Harding, 35, of Williston, Florida,” DOJ said in a press release, detailing an alleged scheme, which included obtaining “fraudulently created bank statements,” to defraud the U.S. Government’s Small Business Administration of $150,000.

The felony charges include wire fraud, money laundering, and making false statements.

The DOJ indictment also alleges, “Harding committed two acts of wire fraud by participating in a scheme to defraud the Small Business Administration (SBA) and for obtaining coronavirus-related small business loans by means of materially false and fraudulent pretenses, representations, and promises, and for the purpose of executing such scheme, caused wire communications to be transmitted in interstate commerce.”

Trial is scheduled for next month. DOJ says Harding could be subject to as many as 35 years in prison should he be found guilty on all charges.

Harding’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis not only signed into law but used, via his then-press secretary to further attacks on the LGBTQ community, doubled-down on one of his key components: outing LGBTQ children to their parents.

The legislation, technically named the “Parental Rights in Education” Act, prohibits “classroom instruction” on sexual orientation or gender identity in certain school grades, but as expected, has been seen as “confusing” and a total ban on any discussion of LGBTQ issues.

Making clear the legislation’s intent, Florida GOP lawmakers voted down an proposed by a Democrat that would require schools create a safe environment for LGBTQ children.

“Those are serious allegations of corruption,” Equality Florida Executive Director Nadine Smith told Florida Politics, which first reported the news. “The courts will sort through that sordid mess but we know he’s made many false statements about the LGBTQ community. Florida parents are forced to navigate schools that are less safe for their children because Joe Harding’s political ambitions know no bounds.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

How Republican Anti-Vax Madness Killed Off Their Party's Midterm Voters

The short version is, COVID is not going away. The long version is, it’s killing way more people in rural areas than in the cities. Those deaths may have had a deleterious effect on Republican turn-out in the midterms and may have even cost the Republican Party some seats in the House and Senate.

It's their own fault, of course. From DeSantis in Florida to Abbott in Texas, Republican governors were in a hurry to get their states out of lockdown but in no hurry at all to get people vaccinated. In fact, some red states passed laws making mandatory vaccination requirements imposed by county and city governments illegal, and in some Republican states, governors forced school boards to re-open their schools before administrators and local school boards thought it was safe.

Here is the way that’s paying off for them. According to figures published recently by the Pew Research Center, death rates in urban areas during 2020 and early 2021 were nine times higher than those in rural counties. In the waves of the disease that followed – the third wave, after the first vaccine roll-out; the fourth or Delta wave; and the fifth, or Omicron wave – the figures were reversed. Death rates in rural areas went up, while those in urban areas went down.

The pattern began to mimic the way people voted in America. In the early stages of COVID, counties that voted Democratic had much higher death rates than rural Republican counties. By the third wave of the disease in the fall of 2020, “Counties that voted for Donald Trump over Joe Biden were suffering substantially more deaths from the coronavirus pandemic than those that voted for Biden over Trump,” according to Pew. As the vaccine roll-out went on, the difference between red and blue counties became more pronounced, even as the total number of deaths in the country began to fall. As the fourth wave of the disease set in, “death rates in the most pro-Trump counties were about four times what they were in the most pro-Biden counties,” according to Pew.

The National Bureau of Economic Research in September published a study of excess death rates in two states, Ohio and Florida, comparing death rates in those states in 2017 before COVID with mortality data from 2018 to 2021, including the first two years of COVID. The study looked at how many more people died after the COVID pandemic hit than those who died in the “normal” year of 2017 before the disease took hold.

By linking death rates to voter registration data in both states, the study was able to determine where the excess death rate was higher on a county-by-county basis. The study found “substantially higher excess death rates for registered Republicans when compared to registered Democrats, with almost all of the difference concentrated in the period after vaccines were widely available.” The overall excess death rate for Republicans was 76 percent higher than the excess death rates for Democrats. But when the study concentrated on rates after vaccines became widely available, the excess death rate for Republicans in both states jumped to 153 percent higher than excess death rate for Democrats.

“The gap in excess death rates between Republicans and Democrats is concentrated in counties with low vaccination rates and only materializes after vaccines became widely available,” according to data from the study. The study’s authors are Jacob Wallace and Jason L. Schwartz, both from the Yale School of Public Health, and Paul Goldsmith-Pinkham of the Yale School of Management.

Pew Research figures echo the study by the National Bureau of Economic Research. “Overall, the COVID-19 death rate in all counties Trump won in 2020 is substantially higher than it is in counties Biden won (as of the end of February 2022, 326 per 100,000 in Trump counties and 258 per 100,000 in Biden counties).”

Jonathan V. Last in The Bulwark screwed the figures from both studies down to the results in the very tight Senate race in Nevada. Last looked up the COVID figures for Nevada and found that between January of 2021 and November of this year, 9,400 people died of COVID. “The data suggests that the majority of these people would have been Republican voters,” Last reported dryly. Adam Laxalt, hand-picked by Trump to run for the Senate in Nevada, lost his race by only 6,000 votes.

It's a fact that if you are vaccinated, you have a far lower risk of dying from COVID. It’s also a fact that rural counties with low vaccination rates had much larger rates of death than counties with high vaccination rates. According to Pew, during the Delta wave of the Pandemic, death rates in counties with vaccination rates lower than 40 percent were six times as high as death rates in counties where 70 percent or more were vaccinated. More recently, over the winter of 2021 and early 2022, when the 7-day average for deaths nationally was between 1,000 and 2,500, death rates in counties with low vaccination rates were twice those of counties where 80 percent or more were vaccinated.

These are grim figures, and they don’t bode well for red America going forward. Right now, today, more than 300 people are dying from COVID every day. According to the New York Times, about 27,000 people in this country are in the hospital with complications from COVID on any given day.

The politicization of COVID has cost an untold number of American lives. Don’t count on recent figures showing that far more Republicans are dying of the disease than Democrats to change anything. The leaders of the party that is suffering the most don’t care, so long as those Republicans still living vote for them.

Researching this story, I was reminded of a day way back in the spring of 2020, when some poor soul at the CDC was asked by a reporter how many people might die from COVID total. The CDC employee, who was in the leadership of the agency as I recall, answered 200,000. That person was sidelined by the Trump White House because at the time, Trump was telling the world COVID was just going to “go away.” The CDC employee was eventually fired. All interviews with CDC personnel from then on had to be approved by the White House.

This year alone, 220,000 American citizens have already died from COVID. The total number of deaths due to the disease in this country is over a million and climbing. It’s not even worth estimating how many fewer deaths there might have been if the Republican Party had not chosen to make shut-downs, masks, and vaccinations a political issue so they could get more votes.

Look where it got them. Trump lost in 2020, and Republicans just suffered the worst midterm results any party has had since the 1950’s. It has apparently been a difficult lesson to learn for Republicans that dead people don’t vote.

Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter. He has covered Watergate, the Stonewall riots, and wars in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels. You can subscribe to his daily columns at and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.

Reprinted with permission from Lucian Truscott Newsletter

DeSantis Accused Of 'Blasphemy' In Campaign Ad Stolen From Radio  Icon (VIDEO)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is pulling out all the stops, sending his wife in to submit his closing argument for re-election: God endorses me. DeSantis is running to keep his seat from former Florida Governor Charlie Crist, a Democrat.

It's a not uncommon endorsement Republicans are making – or rather, making up. God isn't going to issue a statement of denial or a cease and desist order. Anyone, even embattled GOP Senate candidate Herschel Walker, can do it – and they are. Walker this week told Georgians, "I'm a warrior for God."

DeSantis' campaign is a bit more polished.

Many may not be old enough to remember Paul Harvey, but many Florida voters are.

The DeSantis campaign, via DeSantis' wife Casey, just released a two-minute black-and-white ad, ripping off a wonderful ode the late ABC News Radio broadcaster Paul Harvey, who died in 2009 at the age of 90, once recorded.

If you have two minutes it's worth listening to the beautiful, original recording by Harvey, "So God Made a Farmer."

DeSantis' ode to himself is less poetic, but it does enshrine his legacy as a Christian nationalist.

"On the eighth day, God looked down on his plant in paradise and said, 'I need to protect her.' So God made a fighter," the DeSantis ad begins, clearly taking from the Paul Harvey classic.

"God said, 'I need somebody willing to get up before dawn and kiss his family goodbye. travel thousands of miles for no other reason than to serve the people, to save their jobs, their livelihoods, their liberty, their happiness.' So God made a fighter."

"God said, 'I need someone to be strong advocate for truth in the midst of hysteria. Someone who challenges conventional wisdom and isn't afraid to defend what he knows to be right and just,' so God made a fighter."

"God said, 'I need somebody who will take the arrows, stand firm in the wake of unrelenting attacks, look a mother in the eyes and tell her that her child will be in school. She can keep her job, go to church, eat dinner with friends and hold the hand of an aging parents taking their breath for the last time.' So God made a fighter."

"God said, 'I need a family man. A man who would laugh and then sigh and then reply with smiling eyes when his daughter says she wants to spend her life doing what dad does.' So God made a fighter."

In 2013 Ram Trucks used the Paul Harvey ode to farmers in an elegant Super Bowl ad, but at least they credited the author. DeSantis did not.

DeSantis is getting highly criticized for this last-ditch closing argument, just four days before the November 8 election.

"New DeSantis ad says DeSantis was created by God on the 8th day to protect freedom," observed Talking Points Memo founder Josh Marshall.

Economist and frequent political commentator David Rothschild slammed DeSantis by responding with a quote from Exodus.

""You shall have no other gods beside Me. You shall not make for yourself any graven image, nor any manner of likeness, of any thing that is heaven above ... You shall not bow down to them, nor serve them, for I, the Lord Your God, am a jealous God ..."

Florida Attorney Daniel Uhlfelder, who closely tracked DeSantis' possibly unlawful shipping of migrants to Martha's Vineyard, was less eloquent but more specific in his response.

"God created this asshole on 8th day?" he asked.

"If Barack Obama had made an ad like this, evangelicals would have burnt down the country in a ragegasm," wrote Lee Papa, better known as The Rude Pundit.

VICE News' Paul Curst said, "I'm not an expert on Christian theology but I did go to Catholic school for a while and I don't remember reading 'God created the governor of Florida in order to save America from the libs' in the Old Testament."

"Correct me if I'm wrong, but is it not kinda heretical/blasphemous to suggest DeSantis is some kind of prophet sent specifically by God to save us?" asked MSNBC's Mehdi Hasan. "Is it also not weird that Republicans seem to need to create cults of personality around all their leaders? Idolatrous even?"

Rev. Ben Crosby, an Episcopal Church priest, asked: "Under the imaginary Christian nationalist republic that exists in the minds of some of these Twitter guys, would the creators and approvers of this ad be punished with jail time for blasphemy?"

Many others are labeling it "blasphemy."

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

When A Republican Governor Suddenly And Desperately Needs Federal Aid

On his very first day in Congress -- long before he began to preen as a potential presidential candidate – Ron DeSantis proved that he was unfit to hold the highest office in the land. The date was January 4, 2013, and he cast his maiden vote on the House floor against $9.7 billion in federal flood insurance aid for victims of Hurricane Sandy, which had devastated New York and New Jersey.

Now, nearly a decade later, that vote strikes a stunning chord of hypocrisy and cruelty, when he is pleading for far larger sums from Washington to rebuild the communities destroyed by Hurricane Ian in his home state. With his characteristic arrogance, DeSantis abruptly dismisses any questions about his self-interested reversal as “politics” and “pettiness.”

Back when he voted “no” on Sandy aid to the northern states, DeSantis pretended to be a fiscal conservative. He claimed to sympathize with the victims of that storm but wasn’t inclined to send them any help beyond the usual Republican thoughts and prayers. According to him, increasing the flood insurance program’s debt at that time “with no plan to offset the spending with cuts elsewhere is not fiscally responsible.”

That finger-wagging and penny-pinching is entirely absent from the letter DeSantis sent a few days ago to President Joe Biden. Instead, he urged the administration to provide “100 percent reimbursement” for the hurricane damage suffered in southwest Florida. Nowhere did his letter suggest – and in none of his media appearances has the governor ever said – that the White House should first identify “budget offsets.” (In fact, DeSantis had earlier abandoned all that sanctimonious noisemaking when he voted in October 2017 for a $36.5 billion relief bill after a trio of catastrophic storms struck Florida. That bill contained no offsets either. The following year, DeSantis ran for governor.)

Republican demands for fiscal probity, as a rule, apply only to blue states, which actually pay for the disaster aid that is shared all over the country and flows uninterrupted to red states that send far less to the Treasury than they receive. But Biden, a decent man who believes with his whole heart in patriotic goodwill, would never mention how DeSantis tried to deprive their fellow Americans of the assistance they so desperately needed. Nor would he ever ask why DeSantis has done nothing as governor to increase the rate of flood insurance among Florida’s coastal homeowners, while he has so much free time to spend to persecute gays and immigrants, censor opponents, and concoct fairy tales about American history.

Instead, Biden assured the Florida governor – the same strutting bully who just a few days ago threatened to ship Venezuelan asylum seekers to the president’s Delaware residence – that the United States stands ready to fulfill the meaning of its name. DeSantis, for his part, spent weeks on his political stunt of transporting a few dozen migrants to Martha’s Vineyard—valuable time he wasted on demagoguery at Florida taxpayer expense instead of devoting himself to preparing for the emergency of the hurricane.

As governor, DeSantis is brimming with sound bites and devoid of solutions. But then we’ve seen the same depressing performance on many occasions from his fellow Republicans.

Sen. Ted Cruz, the junior Republican from Texas so widely disliked on both sides of the aisle, notoriously lied about the 2017 disaster relief bill, which he falsely depicted as “pork.” Last year, Sen. Rand Paul, the junior Republican from Kentucky, pulled the same stunt when he demanded tornado relief after years of voting down aid to other states.

Biden and the Democrats have consistently supported aid to blue and red state alike wherever needed—and now to Florida in the wake of Hurricane Ian. On September 30, only 10 Republicans in the House voted for the budget bill that contained disaster relief. In the Senate, 11 Republicans voted against it. And what did Ron DeSantis say about his fellow Republicans who were simply imitating how he behaved in voting against aid for Hurricane Sandy? He is silent in the face of his party’s indifference to his state’s plight. He’s far too ambitious to comment. He has to rely on the good faith of President Biden and Congressional Democrats. Will DeSantis soon return to airlifting migrants to those places that have provided the money to save his state?

It’s deeply irritating when “conservatives” manufactures excuses to oppose assistance to states other than their own -- and it’s tempting to tell them to bugger off when they beg for it, as DeSantis is doing now. That’s when we have to remember that the only thing worse than listening to them is becoming like them.

Don't Blame Immigrants -- It's Our Laws That Are Criminal

America needs more immigrants, but we seem determined to shoot ourselves in the foot. Before addressing that self-sabotage, permit a small digression.

In the 1980s, Venezuela was the wealthiest country in Latin America. Sitting on about 18 percent of the world's proven oil reserves, Venezuelans enjoyed higher living standards than their neighbors and seemed to have a stable democracy. Looks were deceiving. When the price of oil plummeted in the 1990s, the country was plunged into instability. In 1999, they elected a charismatic military officer, Hugo Chavez, who promised to redistribute the nation's wealth and proceeded to befriend Fidel Castro and destroy the nation's economy. He nationalized companies and farms, crushed labor unions, put opponents in prison and seized the assets of foreign oil contractors.

Chavez succumbed to cancer in 2013, but by then Venezuela was a basket case. Today, one in three Venezuelans doesn't get enough to eat, malnutrition among poor children is rife, and more than 75 percent of Venezuelans live in extreme poverty. It is the most abrupt collapse of a thriving nation not at war on record, and a cautionary tale about what can happen when people make bad political choices.

Most of the 50 immigrants Gov. Ron DeSantis dropped on Martha's Vineyard were Venezuelans who had made an arduous 2,000-mile journey. "No one leaves home," wrote poet Warsan Shire, "unless home is the mouth of a shark."

Many on the right portray illegal immigrants as criminals who are "breaking into our house" and deserve to be treated as such. Under U.S. statutes, if a migrant comes into this country, turns himself in to a border guard or other authority and asks for political asylum, he is entitled to a hearing. Asylum seekers are not "illegal" immigrants.

DeSantis didn't see suffering human beings. He saw props. He saw Fox News coverage. (Fox, unlike the governor of Massachusetts, was tipped off in advance.) And he saw the chance to show the GOP base what a jerk he could be.

The DeSantis justifiers object that border states are being flooded with illegals and that it's unjust that red states are bearing all of the burden. But the border states are not handling it alone. The federal government has spent roughly $333 billion on border security and immigration enforcement in the past 19 years, with much of it targeted on the southern border.

As for the burden of immigration, it's debatable that immigrants represent a burden at all. Many studies show that they pay more in taxes than they cost in social services and they are more likely to work, start business and seek patents than the native-born (and less likely to commit crimes).

Those who believe the propaganda that immigration is destroying America should ponder our neighbor to the north. Is Canada a hellscape? The proportion of foreign-born there is 21 percent compared to the American average of 13.7 percent.

In truth, the vast majority of would-be immigrants have done absolutely nothing wrong. It is our own laws that are the problem. We desperately need workers, yet the wait for legal immigration options is years long. People ask, "Why can't illegal immigrants wait in line?"

But there is no line. We resolutely decline to accept guest workers in large numbers, who could fill jobs and return home (without affecting voting patterns, by the way). And so the only way to gain entry is to put feet on American soil and ask for asylum.

Clearly, not all of those pleading for asylum meet the criteria (a well-founded fear of persecution), but the system is short of courts and judges and wait times for hearings are very long. Some never show up for their hearings. And so the word has gone out around the world that if you can manage to get to the United States and present yourself to a border guard, you have at least a shot of remaining in the country either because your asylum claim will be granted or you will melt into the country and avoid deportation.

We are fortunate that so many hardworking people want to come here. If we had our act together, we would reform our laws to take many more legal immigrants (who would begin the application process in their home countries) and hire more immigration judges to hear asylum claims while clarifying that only severe cases will be eligible for that status (not economic migrants). We are an aging population with a declining birth rate. Our national spirit needs the infusion of energy and dynamism that immigrants provide. And we will be thanked and strengthened by people whose lives we save.

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the "Beg to Differ" podcast. Her most recent book is Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

How Ron DeSantis Made Himself A Communist Dictator's Best Friend

Ron DeSantis never gets bored of telling us how much he despises communism.

Not only does the Florida governor frequently mention his hatred of communism, but last spring he signed a law that memorializes its victims and mandates an annual day devoted to teaching its harmful history in the Sunshine State's public schools. "I know we don't need legislation here to do this," said DeSantis when that bill passed, "but I think it's our responsibility to make sure people know about the atrocities committed by people like Fidel Castro and even more recently people like Nicolas Maduro" — yes, the autocratic ruler of Venezuela.

The first "Victims of Communism Day" since the passage of that law is coming up on November 7, but it's not at all clear why those who have suffered under such regimes would be in any mood to mark the occasion with DeSantis. To advance his career, the belligerent governor is himself now victimizing those who have fled communism — and he may have violated the law in doing so.

After Maduro, the greatest oppressor of Venezuelans, who also treats them like dirt, is none other than DeSantis.

Among the millions fleeing Maduro's crashed economy and brutal repression, many have sought refuge in the United States, which has vowed to help them. And some who entered this country, exercising their legal rights under our asylum statutes, had the misfortune last week to encounter covert agents of the DeSantis administration who deceived them last week into boarding flights northward.

A "tall blond woman" calling herself "Perla" promised the immiserated and exhausted Venezuelans, whom she found near a migrant center in Texas, that they would receive "employment, housing, and educational opportunities" if they got onto a small plane that she said would take them to Boston. The charter flight landed instead on Martha's Vineyard, an island off Massachusetts that is a summer destination for affluent vacationers.

The next day, as everyone now knows, DeSantis announced boastfully that he was responsible for the cruel ruse. It later emerged that the governor had bragged beforehand about this plan, financed by Florida taxpayers, at a "briefing" for the Republican Party's biggest donors. No doubt those plutocrats were amused by what DeSantis portrayed as a clever prank. But others with long memories were reminded of the 1960s segregationists who deceived poor Black people into boarding buses from Mississippi to Hyannis, another Massachusetts resort town, where President John F. Kennedy's family maintained a residence (and still does).

If the point was to demonstrate the hypocrisy of liberals, who were perhaps expected to shun or stigmatize the unexpected guests, it failed. The good people of Martha's Vineyard rallied instantly to provide cash, copious food, safe shelter, amusements for children and anything else the Venezuelans needed until the state moved them to an Air Force base on nearby Cape Cod.

Now, more than one law enforcement agency is investigating whether DeSantis violated any laws by transporting the Venezuelans under false pretenses, and some of the asylum seekers are suing him in federal court.

Many details of how the governor's minions carried out this plot remain to be discovered. For instance, he has refused so far to release the state's $12-million contract with the aviation firm that oversaw the flights, but news outlets have reported that its owners are major Republican donors with longstanding financial ties to a top DeSantis aide. That firm has also done business with a sanctioned Russian helicopter company. Russia, of course, is Maduro's chief protector and patron.

Aside from the usual sleazy grift, what remains so striking here is the casual abandonment of the Republicans' own professed principles. While DeSantis claims to empathize with the victims of Maduro's incompetence and violence, that didn't stop him and his undercover goons from scamming them.

Indeed, the Florida law that financed the Vineyard flights stipulates that Venezuelans escaping the Maduro regime are not "unauthorized aliens," meant to be shipped away like other Central American refugees, because they are exercising a legal right to asylum. Evidently such distinctions don't matter to DeSantis, whose mission is to impress Republican voters by "owning the libs." DeSantis believes this nasty demagogic exploitation of the Venezuelans' misery will help lift him to the 2024 presidential nomination. Here it's worth recalling that one DeSantis ancestor was an illiterate Italian woman deemed "undesirable" who was somehow able to slip past those regulations — luckily for her descendant, the immigrant-baiting Ronald.

His "prank" must be making one man laugh the loudest. That would be Maduro, who can only view DeSantis' sadistic treatment of the Venezuelans as a clown show that benefits him. The Florida governor has made himself a useful idiot for the Caracas regime and by extension, Vladimir Putin.

A century ago, when Italian immigrants were sharply limited from entry into the United States under the draconian immigrant restriction law of 1924, they were commonly considered to be of another race, meaning not white. Whatever differences now exist among the current stream of refugees and migrants, there is one crucial trait they share. In the eyes of DeSantis — and the Republican Party's nativist Know-Nothings — all those people are the wrong color.

Threats Against Texas Sheriff Who Launched Probe Of DeSantis Trafficking Stunt

Far-right Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has been drawing a great deal of criticism from Democrats — as well as some Never Trump conservatives — for sending two planes of migrants, many of them from Venezuela, to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. DeSantis critics have been saying that it wasn’t hard to figure out why he chose Martha’s Vineyard for his political stunt: Massachusetts, home of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, is a deep blue state — and DeSantis, during an election year, wanted to show off his ability to “own the liberals.”

On Monday, September 19 in Bexar County, Texas — where the flight of migrants originated before going to Florida and later, Martha’s Vineyard — Sheriff Javier Salazar announced that he would be opening a criminal investigation of DeSantis. And since then, according to Vice’s Paul Blest, Salazar’s office has been inundated with “threats.”

Salazar, at a press conference, told reporters he believes the migrants were “lured” to Martha’s Vineyard under “false pretenses” in violation of both county and federal law. In a brochure that Popular Information posted on September 19, migrants were promised “eight months cash assistance” as well as “food,” “housing” and “job placements.”

On September 20, the day after Salazar’s announcement, a spokesperson for his office told Vice, “There have been numerous threats, an influx of calls to our dispatch and administrative offices, along with hateful e-mails received…. Additionally, as in any instance when our office receives threats, precautionary measures will be made for safety of all personnel.”

One of the Massachusetts Democrats who has been calling DeSantis out is State Rep. Dylan Fernandes, who described DeSantis’ actions as “f****** depraved.” On September 18, Fernandes — whose district includes the Martha’s Vineyard area — tweeted, “We are requesting that the Department of Justice open an investigation to hold DeSantis & others accountable for these inhumane acts. Not only is it morally criminal, there are legal implications around fraud, kidnapping, deprivation of liberty, and human trafficking.”

DeSantis has been an incredibly polarizing figure in Florida and U.S. politics. Although Democrats as well as some moderate Republicans hold him in very low regard, DeSantis is wildly popular with the MAGA base — and polls indicate that he appears to be headed for reelection in Florida’s 2022 gubernatorial race. Polls have shown DeSantis with single-digit leads over the Democratic nominee, Rep. Charlie Crist, a former Republican and ex-governor of Florida.

Blest notes, “DeSantis, who is up for reelection this year, has become one of the most popular figures in the Republican Party due to his relentless hostility towards his perceived political enemies and the media, and has been rumored as a potential candidate in 2024. DeSantis’ campaign and PAC have raised a combined $178 million this year, a gubernatorial fundraising record, according to OpenSecrets.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Asylum Seekers Shipped North By DeSantis Were Promised Cash And Jobs

Officials in Massachusetts, the U.S. Dept. of Justice, and others concerned for the well-being and civil rights of 50 or so asylum seekers from Venezuela, including children, flown to Martha’s Vineyard by Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis were reportedly given a brochure that said they would be eligible to receive “8 months cash assistance,” “assistance with housing,” and “job placement,” along with other benefits.

Calling it “The smoking gun in Martha’s Vineyard,” Popular Information’s Judd Legum reports it “has obtained documentary evidence that migrants from Venezuela were provided with false information to convince them to board flights chartered by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R). The documents suggest that the flights were not just a callous political stunt but potentially a crime.”

Legum reports “many of the migrants told reporters that they were misled about the nature of the flights. Several migrants told NPR they were told the flight was going to Boston, not Martha’s Vineyard. According to the migrants, a woman who identified herself as Perla also said that, if they traveled to Boston, they could receive ‘expedited work papers.'”

“If the migrants were misled,” Legum adds, that is “potentially criminal,” and would mean the “scheme to transport them to Martha’s Vineyard could constitute fraud, false imprisonment, or kidnapping. ”

Popular Information “obtained a brochure that was provided to the migrants who ultimately agreed to the flights” that “says that migrants who arrive in Massachusetts will be eligible for numerous benefits, including ‘8 months cash assistance,’ ‘assistance with housing,’ ‘food,’ ‘clothing,’ ‘transportation to job interviews,’ ‘job training,’ ‘job placement,’ ‘registering children for school,’ ‘assistance applying for Social Security cards,’ and many other benefits.”

Massachusetts Democratic state Rep. Dylan Fernandes, whose district includes Martha’s Vineyard, has been pushing for a federal investigation

“We are requesting that the Department of Justice open an investigation to hold DeSantis & others accountable for these inhumane acts. Not only is it morally criminal, there are legal implications around fraud, kidnapping, deprivation of liberty, and human trafficking,” he said, adding: “I have spoken with our US Attorney Rachel Rollins and am grateful to hear she is pushing for a response from the DOJ.”

Many of the asylum-seeking immigrants from Venezuela are now represented by Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR), which says the group was “induced to board airplanes and cross state lines under false pretenses,'” according to The Guardian.

“Individuals, working in concert with state officials, including the Florida governor, made numerous false promises [to the migrants] – including of work opportunities, schooling for their children, and immigration assistance – in order to induce them to travel.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.