As Florida Governor Ron DeSantis scrambles to shore up his struggling run for the Republican presidential nomination, he has spent far more than any rival on courting an influential Christian conservative leader and his following in the key early voting state of Iowa. The DeSantis campaign, a super PAC linked to him and a nonprofit group supporting him together paid $95,000 in recent months to the Family Leader Foundation, an Iowa-based nonprofit led by evangelical leader Bob Vander Plaats.
For that money, DeSantis and supporting groups got three pages of advertisements in a booklet distributed at the July forum attended by 2,000 Christian conservatives, and tickets to the summit, lunch and an after-dinner event. But the real value may be more in building a relationship with Vander Plaats, whose endorsement is coveted in the early-voting state, said three campaign finance experts and an academic who studies Iowa campaign spending.
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In 2011, Vander Plaats was accused of soliciting $1 million from then-presidential candidate Rick Santorum in return for his endorsement.
In 2016, Trump claimed that Vander Plaats wanted $100,000 “for himself” in return for hosting a Trump event. Vander Plaats then endorsed Ted Cruz.
In 2009, the Family Leader led the successful campaign to remove three Iowa Supreme Court justices after they ruled in favor of same-sex marriage.
Ron DeSantis and his backers paid $95,000 to an Iowa religious leader’s group | Reuters. @RonDeSantis campaign is going so badly he’s trying to buy endorsements. #DefeatDeSantis https://t.co/e5AuQ9aAqB
— Jeff Bergenthal (@mitgolfer) August 12, 2023
“ABC News reported that Vander Plaats had solicited up to a million dollars from Santorum and other candidates in exchange for his endorsement, that he and Santorum had discussed the subject of money when negotiating the endorsement…”#Corruption https://t.co/t41LBGu7U4
— Kent Broadwater (@kentb1972) June 22, 2020