National News

DeSantis touts wealthy backers

Posted December 29, 2017 10:22 p.m. EST

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis' campaign touted an impressive list of billionaire supporters Friday, a week after the Jacksonville-area congressman was endorsed for governor by President Donald Trump.

Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, Breitbart co-owner Rebekah Mercer and hedge fund manager John Thaler are now members of his national finance team, according to a spokesman for the DeSantis' campaign, although there is still no confirmed run for governor.

The spokesman, Brad Herold, said the deep-pocketed supporters were already on board before Trump tweeted last week that DeSantis was a "brilliant young leader" who would "make a GREAT Governor of Florida."

"I don't think there's anyone (who joined the finance team) specifically since Trump's endorsement," Brad Herold said. "Some of them have been supporters for years. Some of them have become supporters more recently, as we've been making moves toward the 2018 election."

Although there's no official gubernatorial campaign yet, Herold said he is a campaign spokesman because he's getting paid by Ron DeSantis for Florida, a political committee formed in 2012.

Herold said DeSantis, R-Palm Coast, would decide soon whether he's running in what's expected to be a heavily contested governor's race next year. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is an early favorite, having raised about $15 million already.

But DeSantis' finance team would make him immediately competitive.

Several members of the national finance team have strong ties to Trump, including David Bossie, president of Citizens United and Trump's deputy campaign manager last year. Conservative mega-donor Foster Friess has supported Trump, as has venture capitalist and Trump fundraiser Elliott Broidy.

The 39-year-old DeSantis, a former Navy lawyer, is one of several congressional Floridians who have gained media attention -- and Trump's praise -- after they criticized special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

In August, DeSantis proposed an amendment to limit the scope of the investigation, and his criticism has landed him several appearances on Fox News. Trump's endorsement apparently came after seeing DeSantis on the network last week.

Herold said he doesn't believe the congressman's views on the Mueller investigation "is a factor at all" in gaining the support of the mega-donors.

Contact Lawrence Mower at lmower@tampabay.com. Follow

@lmower3.