Real estate developers, investors and realtors who are profiting from Gov. Ron DeSantis' moves to reopen Florida ahead of other states during the COVID-19 pandemic are showing their appreciation by contributing massive amounts of money to the governor and his political action committee.
A Politico analysis of campaign contribution disclosures found that the real estate industry donated more than $7 million to DeSantis in the past year, making it one of the largest donor groups. Some $2.5 million of that came from real estate industry players who previously have not given or had been dormant for several elections.
According to that analysis, DeSantis has $96 million cash in the bank, a sum vastly larger than the combined $10 million cash-on-hand total for his three Democratic challengers, Rep. Charlie Crist, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and Florida Sen. Annette Taddeo (D-Miami).
DeSantis has received huge sums from the hospitality industry, as well as the health care, insurance and finance sectors, but real estate is king. One industry executive is blunt about why it supports his reelection: profits.
“I think a combination of two things, we absolutely support all the keep Florida open business policies the governor adopted,” said Carlos Beruff, a Sarasota County homebuilder and longtime Republican donor. “The second thing is, I call it the Covid phenomenon in real estate. Unfortunately, Covid has been a terrible plague on us, but in the real estate industry, there has been a boom.”
“Everyone in the industry just has more walking around money,” he added, explaining the increase of new real estate industry donors to DeSantis.
While the industry is profiting, many Floridians are struggling to afford housing. Rental prices have gone up almost 60 percent in Orlando over the past year. In Miami-Dade County, Mayor Daniella Levine Cava declared a state of emergency over affordable housing, calling the state's biggest county "the most unaffordable place in the country." Rents also have shot up around Tampa.
“It is pretty clear to me that this is the main reason why the governor will not champion housing issues, and why he has been repeating industry talking points,” said state Rep. Anna Eskamani (D-Orlando). “That is driven by a desire to make money, and clearly [political] contributions is a means to prohibit real action, which would require a heavier hand.”