Florida lobbyists who work with the Sunshine State government have been left aghast by demands that they donate to Governor Ron DeSantis’ newly launched presidential campaign, according to a report from NBC News.

The reason for the alarm about the donation requests is that they have come directly from persons employed by the Executive Office of the Governor in Tallahassee, as well as other executive agencies. The involvement of state employees in soliciting funds for the governor’s campaign may run afoul of Sunshine State ethics laws and appears to be a breach of traditional norms that aim to separate the work of governing from campaigning for elected office.

A group of 10 lobbyists contacted by the news network all said they could not ever recall being openly solicited for donations by state officials.

One lobbyist told NBC that the DeSantis administration “appears to be keeping tabs on who is giving, and are doing it using state staff” and said they felt trapped in a “prisoner’s dilemma” because Mr DeSantis will remain in office through 2026 unless he successfully wins the presidency next year.

Mr DeSantis’ office did not comment when asked by the network, but in a text message, an administration official confirmed that they and other Florida state employees “personally donated” to his campaign.

The Independent has contacted the governor’s campaign for comment.

A Florida election law attorney told NBC that the solicitations raise ethical questions, even if they occur outside working hours.

“At a minimum, even if they are sitting in their home at 9 p.m. using their personal phone and contacting lobbyists that they somehow magically met in their personal capacity and not through their role in the governor’s office, it still smells yucky,” the attorney said. “There’s a misuse of public position issue here that is obvious to anyone paying attention.”

Another lobbyist who spoke to NBC said they felt pressured to give funds because Mr DeSantis is still working through the state budget with a line-item veto — a power some state governors can use to slash individual funding requests — and they feel they cannot risk the governor’s ire by not giving.

“What the f*** am I supposed to do?” one lobbyist said. “I have a lot of business in front of the DeSantis administration”.

The news of the solicitations by state officials comes just days after Mr DeSantis launched his 2024 campaign in a glitch-filled appearance on Twitter’s “Spaces” feature alongside the site’s owner, Elon Musk.

Mr DeSantis’ campaign said it raised a massive $8.2m in the first 24 hours after his announcement.

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