DeSantis lived in condo owned by campaign donor after redistricting

- Maret 15, 2018

TALLAHASSEE — After redistricting drew Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis out of his congressional district, he moved into a condo owned by campaign donors who are top executives at a defense contractor that lobbies the federal government, according to property records.

The move was needed after DeSantis dropped his 2016 bid for Senate when GOP Sen. Marco Rubio got back in the race. He decided to seek reelection to Congress, but new maps approved by the courts that year drew his house out of the Northeast Florida 6th Congressional District he previously represented.

As a result, DeSantis — now running for governor — decided to move into a Flagler County condo whose owners include Kent Stermon and Matt Connell, both executives at Total Military Management. That Jacksonville-based company serves as a third-party relocation service for U.S. military personnel.

Since DeSantis’ first House race in 2012, the two and a political action committee tied to the company have given nearly $60,000 in political contributions to DeSantis, according to federal campaign finance records. The company has also long been registered to lobby Congress on host of defense industry-related issues.

The company and its employees have spent at least $50,000 in federal lobbying annually going back to 2012, including a high of $190,000 in 2015, according to federal lobbying records.

The company has lobbied Congress since at least 2012. In recent years it has focused on Department of Defense procurement and budget issues.

Brad Herold, a DeSantis spokesman, downplayed the connection with the company, pointing to the fact that DeSantis lived in the condo for only six months while looking for a permanent residence in the redrawn district.

“Ron DeSantis temporarily moved into the condo of a friend while he looked to buy a home in Flagler County,” Herold said. “He paid upfront and above market value.”

The company wrote a $3,000 check to Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who is running against DeSantis in the GOP primary. The June check came six months before DeSantis got in the race. Stermon was on the host committee of a Jacksonville fundraiser in February for DeSantis’ newly minted gubernatorial bid. He and Connell did not return a request seeking comment.

Herold said DeSantis paid $10,000 to Connell up front for the five months he lived in the condo, providing a canceled check to POLITICO to verify that account.

“A guy he knew said he owned a condo in Flagler that he could rent while they looked,” Herold said. “Moved in in July, moved out in November.”

He said Stermon and Connell are friends with DeSantis and have never lobbied him or the congressional office on issues related to Total Military Management.

Flagler County property records show that DeSantis and his wife, Casey, signed a mortgage for another house in the 6th Congressional District in October 2016. On that mortgage paperwork, he listed the condo address as the location at which he was then living.

DeSantis announced his bid for governor in January after months of speculation, pledging in part to “drain the swamp in Tallahassee, which needs to be drained just like Washington.”

He is running against Putnam, who has held the front-runner title so far, in a primary field likely to eventually include state House Speaker Richard Corcoran.


 

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