Top DeSantis campaign aide reportedly 'at the heart' of a 'political corruption scandal'
A top campaign aide for Florida GOP Governor Ron DeSantis is reportedly at the center of a political scandal involving so-called “ghost candidates,” a scheme Republicans have been using to “siphon” votes from unsuspecting citizens to assist other candidates – in this case to help GOP candidates.
Florida pollster Ryan Tyson, who “is expected to be a top advisor in Ron DeSantis’ presidential bid,” Insider reports, “was at the heart of a 2020 political-corruption scandal in Florida. He funneled money from big-business groups to committees backing straw-man candidates to split the vote.”
DeSantis has not announced but is expected to launch a 2024 presidential bid soon.
Insider describes Tyson as “deeply enmeshed” in the “major Florida political-corruption scandal that has resulted in criminal charges for five people, two of whom have been convicted.”
Tyson allegedly “funneled $600,000 to a dark-money group, Grow United, that supported three ghost candidates running for Florida’s Senate, according to court records. The candidates had no political experience and did not campaign. One candidate was paid $44,000 to run.”
According to Insider, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, a Democrat, has said it is not illegal to run ghost candidates.
“In September 2020, Tyson accepted $630,000 from a nonprofit with ties to the Florida Chamber of Commerce,” Insider adds. “Later that month, he transferred $600,000 to Grow United, which was run by consultants for the utility company Florida Power & Light, the Orlando Sentinel and the Miami Herald reported.”
Insider reports that “Investigators notified Tyson in late 2021 he was a target of their inquiry, but no charges against him have been filed.”
Tyson, via text to Insider, responded saying: “I am not under investigation by any state or federal official.”
“To suggest otherwise is false and, at this point, done with the express purpose of harming me and my reputation.”
Integrity Florida, which describes itself as a “nonpartisan, nonprofit research institute and government watchdog whose mission is to promote integrity in government and expose public corruption,” blasted the ghost candidate scheme in an 18-page report released in December.
“In the Senate races for Districts 9, 37 and 39, No Party Affiliated candidates were essentially bribed to enter the races in a scheme to siphon votes away from Democratic candidates in favor of their Republican opponents,” Integrity Florida’s report states. “Leaked documents from an Alabama-based political consulting firm with ties to Florida’s largest utility Florida Power and Light show how ‘dark money’ political committees worked behind the scenes to promote the ghost candidates, even though the candidates themselves did no campaigning.”
In one of the three races, “incumbent Democratic Senator José Javier Rodríguez lost to his Republican challenger by just over 30 votes. A ghost candidate with the same last name who did no campaigning yet was the beneficiary of a dark money advertising campaign, received over 6,000 votes. Clearly, the ghost candidate in the race received a significant number of votes, indicating that the candidate successfully siphoned votes away from the Democratic incumbent.”
Integrity Florida’s director, Ben Wilcox, told Insider, “The whole scheme just seems like it should be illegal.”
“We shouldn’t be able to meddle in a political race to that extent, to where you’re purposely deceiving voters. If it isn’t illegal, it should be.”