Billionaire donors take comfort in Ron DeSantis about right-wing politics

Get free updates for the US Presidential Election 2024

Powerful Republican donors and billionaires Ken Griffin and Nelson Peltz are rethinking plans to support Ron DeSantis’ run for president over concerns that the Florida governor is veering too far to the right.

People familiar with their thinking told the Financial Times they were frustrated by DeSantis’ interventionist policies. People said Griffin objects to a recent crackdown on sex and sexuality education, and DeSantis’ ongoing battle with Disney, while Peltz objected to his stance on abortion.

DeSantis, 44, is widely seen as the best candidate to challenge Donald Trump for the Republican presidential nomination. But he has recently slipped in opinion polls and there are growing doubts about the strategy behind his bid for the White House in 2024.

The withdrawal of donors like Griffin and Peltz, hedge fund managers among Florida’s largest taxpayers, could do more damage to DeSantis’ campaign. It was expected that the couple would be among DeSantis’ biggest supporters.

Griffin has provided $5 million for DeSantis’ re-election efforts in 2022 and has been one of his staunchest and most vocal supporters, previously praising his “tremendous record as governor of Florida.” But recently, the hedge fund manager has become unsettled by DeSantis’ policy initiatives that have undermined individual rights and freedoms, said a person familiar with his thinking.

Griffin declined to comment on specific candidates but told the Financial Times: “As the presidential campaigns get underway, I take stock of how each candidate’s policies will advance our democracy.”

He added, “I care deeply about individual rights and freedoms, economic policies that encourage prosperity and upward mobility, children’s access to a quality education, ensuring the security of our communities, and a strong national defense that secures the future of the United States and its allies.”

Peltz, founder of investment firm Trian Partners, lives in Palm Beach. He is also reconsidering his position. “Nelson Peltz thinks most of DeSantis’ policies are acceptable, but his position on abortion is very tough,” said a person familiar with his thinking. “It could undermine Peltz’s desire to financially support DeSantis as a candidate.” Peltz declined to comment.

Sixty-nine percent of Americans support legal abortion during the first trimester, according to a recent Gallup poll.

The lack of vocal support from business figures once considered loyal supporters comes at a critical time for DeSantis, who last week courted wealthy backers with a fundraiser in the affluent Hamptons on Long Island. Neither Griffin nor Peltz have met with the Florida governor in months and have not offered any financial support since DeSantis announced his candidacy in May.

DeSantis’ campaign has so far relied heavily on wealthy donors. Filings with the Federal Election Commission show that one-sixth of the $20.1 million DeSantis raised in the second quarter came from small donors. The candidate spent nearly $8 million in the five weeks of his campaign.

In an effort to outsmart Trump, DeSantis has swerved sharply to the right on issues ranging from gay rights to abortion and immigration, a move that is beginning to alienate some key backers. In April, he signed into law a six-week abortion ban in Florida, applying some of the country’s toughest restrictions to a state that serves as a medical center in the southeastern US.

Griffin, founder of Citadel hedge fund and market maker Citadel Securities, announced last year that Citadel would be moving from Chicago to Miami, describing the city he recently moved to with his family as “a growing city that embodies the American dream.” Citadel will employ about 250 people in Miami by the end of the summer.

The financier disagrees with DeSantis’ ongoing battle with Disney over the “Don’t Say Like Me” bill, which would restrict teaching in schools about gender and sexuality. Florida’s governor declared war on Wake Up Disney, the state’s largest employer and drawing millions of visitors annually to Orlando.

Griffin believes DeSantis’ fight with the entertainment group “sends the wrong message about doing business in Florida,” said a person familiar with his thinking. “The governor needs to stay focused on creating good jobs.”

Peltz, who called off a proxy battle with the Disney board earlier in 2023, remains a significant shareholder in the entertainment conglomerate.

Earlier this year, Thomas Petrffy, the billionaire founder of Interactive Brokers and a major Republican donor, cited DeSantis’ stance on abortion as one of his main reasons for halting campaign financing plans.

“I stopped myself,” he told the Financial Times in April. Because of his position on abortion, the book was banned. . . Me and a group of friends, holding our powder dry.”

DeSantis noted the concerns at an evangelical convention earlier this month, acknowledging that his office has “lost a lot of really great supporters.” We did what was right,” DeSantis said, adding, “If I had the chance to do it again, I would do it every weekday and twice on Sunday.”

Andrew Romeo, a spokesperson for DeSantis’ campaign, expressed his gratitude for “the tens of thousands of grassroots supporters — and major donors — who have made it possible for us to build an organization like no other . . . with the ability to compete for the long term.”

Additional reporting by Lauren Vidor in Washington

*This story has been modified to clarify that Ken Griffin has not been a supporter of Donald Trump

Home Page




Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Post Type Selectors