Florida Immigrant Moving Company Gave Money To GOP, Has Ties To DeSantis Immigration ‘Czar’ And Rep. Matt Gaetz

Florida Immigrant Moving Company Gave Money To GOP, Has Ties To DeSantis Immigration ‘Czar’ And Rep. Matt Gaetz

The charter company that Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration contracted for its immigrant relocation program has brought in a lot of money to some of the governor’s top allies and was once legally represented by Rep. Matt Gaetz and his former partner, who is now Florida’s “public safety czar” in charge of immigration policy.

DeSantis management has refused to release a copy of the $12 million contract with Vertol Systems Company Inc. for its role in the administration of the “unauthorized alien” program which state the Democrats tried to block with a lawsuit on Thursday The governor’s office also won’t comment on the nearly $1.6 million the company has received to send immigrants to so-called sanctuary cities that welcome them.

Gaetz, who managed DeSantis’ transition team in 2018, did not comment for this story, nor did his former legal partner, Florida Public Safety Coordinator Larry Keefe, who represented Vertol in at least one civil lawsuit in 2017, according to Okaloosa court records. County, Fla.

In Vertol’s only known case of migrant relocation, the company received an initial $615,000 last week and recruited nearly 50 destitute Venezuelan migrants seeking asylum in San Antonio, gave them food and at least one night’s hotel stay, and he then took them to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, as part of DeSantis’ effort to highlight the cost of illegal immigration. The immigrants’ attorneys say they were duped with false promises and are suing.

On Tuesday, the company planned to fly the immigrants to a Delaware airport near President Joe Biden’s beach home, but the flight was inexplicably canceled after the state gave Vertol another $950,000.

But the state budget authorizing the program specifies that “unauthorized aliens” are supposed to fly from “this state” of Florida, not from any other state, and the Republicans who crafted the program this year said publicly that Venezuelans who seeking asylum are not considered “unauthorized”. foreigners” because they are allowed to be in this country.

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The DeSantis administration’s refusal to provide public records on the contract contrasts with its commitment to operating government with “the utmost transparency and accountability” before taking office in 2019, when it also said it would “empty the swamp” in Tallahassee and stop the “domain” of special interests.

“The state is completely breaking the law. They haven’t provided any proof of how this is legal,” said state Sen. Jason Pizzo, a Democrat who is leading the lawsuit to block payments to the company.

“I want to know who was asleep at the switch on the state side when someone said, ‘Let’s go to San Antonio; let’s spend our money there’, when they booked the La Quinta hotel in San Antonio. Who thought that was legal? Pizza said. “I would like to know, and the public has a right to know, who negotiated this contract and what it says.”

When an NBC News reporter called Vertol Systems Company for comment, an operator hung up.

Keefe, the security coordinator for DeSantis and a former US attorney for the Northern District of Florida, is involved in the program and made it clear when he was appointed that immigration was a top mandate.

“As a former federal attorney, I saw illegal aliens get deported and come back, and then get deported and come back in an endless cycle,” Keefe said after DeSantis named him public safety “czar” last year, according to the Democrat from Tallahassee. “The states, including Florida, are the most affected by this cycle.”

Immigration has been a top concern for DeSantis and led to the eventual ouster of Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen earlier this year, according to three informed sources who spoke candidly after it was reported. grant them anonymity. The commissioner had repeatedly questioned DeSantis’ desire to relocate migrants to other states and use state police resources to track down so-called ghost flights, in which federal authorities took unaccompanied minor migrants to immigration facilities in states. like Florida without notifying state officials, the sources said. Swearingen did not return calls or text messages for comment.

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Vertol is based in the Florida Panhandle city of Destin in the Gaetz congressional district and also near Keefe’s hometown.

State and federal campaign finance data shows that Vertol contributed $2,500 to the North Florida Neighbors super PAC that backed Gaetz’s first run for Congress in 2016. The following year, Vertol contributed $15,000 to then-president’s Watchdog PAC. of the Florida House of Representatives, Richard Corcoran, for his candidacy for governor at a fundraiser organized by Gaetz. Corcoran went on to serve as DeSantis’ secretary of education.

A source familiar with the fundraising said the money was packaged by politically influential Panhandle developer Jay Odom, who is the registered agent for an aviation company connected to Vertol, according to state business records.

Odom, who did not return a call for comment, was convicted and jailed for six months in 2013 for his role in an illegal campaign finance scheme related to Republican Mike Huckabee’s unsuccessful 2008 presidential campaign. Odom was arrested in another alleged crime, along with House Speaker Ray Sansom in 2009, for state funds to build him an airport hangar, but the two men were acquitted at trial, according to a Northwest article. Florida Daily News about a political showdown between Odom and Gaetz.

After DeSantis was elected, Vertol in 2019 contributed another $10,000 to the Florida Republican Party, which is ultimately controlled by the governor.

And Vertol contributed another $1,000 in June to state Rep. Jay Trumbull Jr.’s state Senate campaign. Trumbull, who hails from Panama City near Vertol’s Destin home base, could not be reached for comment. . His father, Jay Trumbull Sr., had been appointed by DeSantis to the Florida Transportation Commission, which oversees the Florida Department of Transportation, the agency in charge of the Vertol contract. The elder Trumbull told The Intercept that he resigned from the commission in June.

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In addition to the pending lawsuit by Florida Democrats and the separate lawsuit against DeSantis from the migrants he brought to Martha’s Vineyard, the Democratic Texas sheriff representing the San Antonio area has vowed to investigate the Florida program in his jurisdiction, saying that there was evidence of fraud. DeSantis has denied any wrongdoing, called on President Joe Biden to reauthorize former President Donald Trump’s restrictive immigration policies and promised Tuesday that the state would continue the program because the nation is once again discussing the southern border.

“It’s not just flights, you know,” he said. “We have land, we have other things we can do. And I’ll tell you this, it’s already had more of an impact than anyone thought it could. But we’re going to continue to have more impact.”

“What we are doing is not the ultimate solution,” he continued. “I think it’s opening people’s eyes to the solution, which is, let’s have a secure border. Let’s stay in Mexico. Let’s take the cartels seriously. And let’s get the show in here. What they’ve been doing for a year and a half or more of that is basically ignoring that the problem exists.”

Source : www.nbcnews.com

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About the Author: Pierre Cohen

A person who has expertise in politics and writes articles to fill his spare time as a hobby.