TALLAHASSEE – When Republican Ron DeSantis resigned from Congress this week, his departure closed an ethics complaint that had not risen to the level of an investigation since filing five months ago.
The complaint, which alleged that DeSantis had rented a condominium on the coast of Palm Coast at a value "well below fair value," did not appeal to the US House Ethics Committee, which reviews claims against members of Congress.
But it raised questions about the three-member's close relationship with two campaign donors working as senior executives at Total Military Management, a Jacksonville-based defense firm that has spent more than $ 700,000 on federal government lobbying since 2012.
DeSantis allies argue that the lawsuit is a political ruse against the former congressman who is now taking on Democrat Andrew Gillum, a candidate who continues to ask questions about traveling with a lobbyist to Costa Rica and New York.
Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, was charged with an ethics lawsuit last year for these travel arrangements, which could also be linked to an ongoing investigation by the FBI in the city.
While Gillum was not directly involved in federal investigations, DeSantis's political team often seeks to underline his ties to him.
"When it comes to Andrew Gillum's business in Tallahassee, his dizzying hoax quickly engulfed his bid for the governor," said DeSantis & # 39; camp in a written statement this month.
Republican Ron DeSantis will compete against Democrat Andrew Gillum in the Florida race.
The DeSantis life form, first reported by Politico Florida and leading to the complaint filed against him, was for a period of five months in 2016 when he stood for re-election.
The courts had recently approved new district cards that pulled DeSantis & # 39; House out of its congressional district in St. Johns County. This prompted DeSantis to rent Kent Sintermon and Matt Connell's condominiums on the Palm Kent beach while searching for a house in Flagler County in his congressional district.
DeSantis paid $ 2,000 a month to stay there. But Miami lawyer Richard Ruben, who filed a lawsuit against DeSantis with the US House of Representatives, said he was "worried that Rep. DeSantis was gifted by a close campaigner and lobbyist, a condominium in which he lives could be."
Ruben did not want to comment this week and hung up when he was contacted for an interview.
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U.S. House Rules do not allow state members to knowingly accept gifts, a term commonly defined as "favor, discount, hospitality … or any other monetary value".
However, the rent paid by DeSantis is equivalent to the market estimate of $ 2,000 per month for the condominium, Zillow.com says, tracking real estate sales and rental data.
The Office of Congressional Ethics forwards complaints to the Ethics Committee when the review of claims is reviewed.
"He has never been informed of any investigation," either by the Congressional Ethics Committee or by the Ethics Committee, said campaign spokesman Stephen Lawson.
With DeSantis from Congress, these entities have now lost responsibility for the complaint.
While the FBI's investigation questions Gillum's candidacy, DeSantis's ethics complaint has had little effect on his race, although Stermon and Connell continue to be closely associated with DeSantis.
Since February, both have made a total of $ 19,000 available to the governor candidate's campaign and political action committee.
Since the first DeSantis house race in 2012, Stermon and Connell have each donated $ 10,500 in political contributions. The defense industry political action committee, which cites Stermon as treasurer, has also spent more than $ 18,000 on DeSantis for six years, according to the federal campaign.
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Lobby publication forms also show that the defense company has spent more than $ 700,000 to raise awareness of defense issues with the federal government since 2012. DeSantis was the chairman of the National Security Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Relations Committee, which oversees the Department of Defense.
DeSantis' stay in the Palm Coast condominium ended when he bought a house in Flagler County. The purchase was completed about a week before the election in November 2016, which won DeSantis.
In May 2018, DeSantis and his wife Casey sold it to the former GOP Kansas, US Representative Marc Rhoades and his wife Denise.
In December 2017, DeSantis moved back to his home in St. Johns County and from his congressional district months before the house was sold.
While the United States Constitution does not require members of Congress to live in their districts, they are often criticized when they do not.
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