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Total Cost of Governor’s Israel Trip: Taxpayers, $131,000. Political Donors: $311,500

| July 15, 2019

Gov. Ron DeSantis on July 9 marked the inaugural of two non-stop flights a week to Tel Aviv as one outcome of his trip to Israel in June. But the flights will largely benefit El Al, the Israeli carrier. Numerous other carriers, including Delta, American Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Air Canada, Lufthansa, and others have long provided service from Orlando to Tel Aviv.

Gov. Ron DeSantis on July 9 marked the inaugural of two non-stop flights a week to Tel Aviv as one outcome of his trip to Israel in June. But the flights will largely benefit El Al, the Israeli carrier. Numerous other carriers, including Delta, American Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Air Canada, Lufthansa, and others have long provided service from Orlando to Tel Aviv.

More than a month after Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida Cabinet members wrapped up a six-day trip in Israel, the price tag of the mostly privately funded trip was revealed on Friday.

The costs for the trip, in which the governor traveled to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem with a delegation of nearly 100 people, totaled $442,504, with private donors covering more than two-thirds of the bill.

Florida taxpayers, however, were hit with a tab of more than $131,000 to cover lodging, airfare and other travel costs for Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, three of her aides, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis’ chief of staff, Attorney General Ashley Moody’s general counsel, three staffers with the governor’s office and security provided by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

The $131,000 cost also included travel expenses for Enterprise Florida staffers, according to documents released by the state economic-development agency Friday.

A major source of funding for the governor-led trade mission came from twelve private donors, which included GrayRobinson and Greenberg Traurig, two top-tier legal and lobbying firms; the Florida Realtors association; Duty Free Americas; and Marc Goldman, owner of New Jersey’s Farmland Dairies.

A month after the trip, Goldman, who was a co-chairman of the Israel trade delegation, contributed $2,000 to the governor’s political committee, according to information posted on the Friends of Ron DeSantis website.

“Trade missions provide an opportunity to promote Florida’s business advantages, assist exporters in meeting clients, and identify and attract foreign direct investment,” Enterprise Florida said in a statement.

The trip to Israel, proposed by DeSantis in April after declaring he wanted to become the most “pro-Israel governor in America,” became controversial when the governor announced it would include a Cabinet meeting.

A day before the meeting was held inside the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, media organizations unsuccessfully sued, arguing the plan violated Florida’s open meeting laws.

DeSantis called the lawsuit “frivolous” and said the Cabinet meeting was being livestreamed to the state Capitol, where the Cabinet usually meets, “so it’s not being done in secret.”

The governor’s office has remained mum about the cost of the trip, referring all questions to Enterprise Florida, which helped plan the excursion.

DeSantis’ office did not respond to questions Friday seeking comment about more than $9,000 in state-funded expenses incurred by three staffers in the governor’s office.

While in Jerusalem, members of the delegations stayed at David Citadel, a five-star luxury hotel selected by Enterprise Florida which cost $425 per night.

Enterprise Florida spokeswoman Kathleen Keenan said the hotel was chosen because of security concerns and consideration of room capacity to accommodate the large delegation.

Delegates included economic-development partners, representatives of communities, and legislators who paid their own expenses on the trip, according to Enterprise Florida.

Enterprise Florida’s final tally of expenses associated with the trip also included a “revenue” section. The $200,000 in revenue included $72,827 in “state reimbursement (security, transportation and EOG staff travel),” which includes about $9,000 for three of DeSantis’ aides and $63,000 for security provided by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, according to Keenan. The reported revenue also included $7,500 for “press registration,” $71,500 for “delegation registration,” and $47,500 for “sponsorships.”

–Ana Ceballos, News Service of Florida

13 Responses for “Total Cost of Governor’s Israel Trip: Taxpayers, $131,000. Political Donors: $311,500”

  1. BMW says:

    Well, nothing in this article alarms me. In typical FlaglerLive fashion, the financial and/or negatives have been pointed out, neither the positive economic impact for years to come or informational sharing implications between the two parties were fairly presented to the reader.

    The Social Justice Warriors aren’t happy unless we are wasting money on the fringes verses reinvesting in our commerce. Blah, blah, blah …..

  2. Well... says:

    Surprise, surprise. He’s such a hypocrite. All his time as Senator he barked about excess spending and what does he do? How will this benefit me? It won’t. All it will do is raise my taxes.

  3. Duncan says:

    There is no excuse for government employees, elected or appointed, should be staying at a 5 star hotel at $425.00. I doubt DeSantis had the means to stay at such a resort before being elected to office and even if he did, its no excuse; at the very least the optics are terrible.

  4. Brian says:

    Again wow. Taking monies donated by private people/companies to help pay for this. God help me had I have done the same thing when I was employed by the FDOT. We could not accept lunches, hats, pens and definitely money from the folks we worked with or assisted on the road. Again I chose the wrong path it seems.

  5. Hamilton says:

    Typical GOP matre… Do as we say, not as we do. That Gillem $300 gift for Hamilton tickets looks quite paltry now doesn’t it?

    There is simply ZERO benefit for local and state governments to leave our shores for any reason, particularly on the taxpayers dime (donors and all!). It should be outlawed and banned. That’s what we have the federal government for.

    Just another bullshit wrapper on that stinky steamy pile of Citizens United poo!

  6. James M. Mejuto says:

    To all the bloodsucking parasites, can you please tell us why any of you went over to Israel
    to hold a ‘cabinet meeting?’ What a scam !!!
    You couldn’t do it here, huh !

    James M. Mejuto

  7. Dave says:

    Sickening waste of taxpayers money , just more plain hypocrisy coming from that side. Why would anyone working in public office think it’s ok to stay in hotel that’s more than $100 a night they should be saving money not blowing it just to live above their means on our dime!

  8. palmcoaster says:

    God forbid was a Democrat and entourage trip…but these GOP dudes exempt themselves from the law. Now let El Al take away business form AA. Delta, United etc. There is a book out there called ” The man who sold America” I would add to that and all his elected ones base cheering for him.

  9. Michael Cocchiola says:

    Can you imagine the Republican outrage if Governor Andrew Gillum had done this?

  10. tom mutschler says:

    Sounds like a good trip to me. 2 flights of tourists a week bring in 400 to 500 people who will spend $2,000 apiece at Disney land or other attractions, and that will mean $1,000,000 a week will be brought in to Florida businesses and workers. Do the math and stop the political hack jobs !!!

  11. Charlie says:

    How about our state Representative put forth a bill to be voted on – called “State of Florida Government Accountability Act” whereby they have to have a business case with a financial payback within 3 years for so called business development trips. After three years,the state auditor general completes an audit and issues the report on project performance. Projects that failed to achieve payback result in demotion or termination of Department executives that requested the trip and developed the business case. This is what happens in the real world private sector every day.

  12. Edith Campins says:

    So now all those who “donated” to help fund the trip are going to be looking for their paybacks. This was a purposeless junket. Can they actually say what they accomplished? Anything concrete?

  13. Agkistrodon says:

    According to the LOCAL news(13) Florida Colleges and schools have stated it was a Big help with what was taken away from how they keep THEIR schools safe so, …..But I guess that is Nothing to some.

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