Wednesday, January 4, 2023


Byron Donalds swearing in in 2018, via Wikipedia.

A note or two on that guy, Byron Donalds, to whom the House clowns turned today as their Speaker candidate-of-the-day. It's not clear what they have in mind except for the obvious part, that they like putting up a Black candidate against a Black democratic candidate (Herschel Walker against Raphael Warnock) because this proves they're not racists, but it's possible there's more.

One thing is that he's from Florida, representing Naples, which makes him a member of a contingent of NeverKevers, along with Reps. Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach and Anna Paulina Luna of St. Petersburg, as of yesterday's third ballot and through today's fourth, fifth. and sixth. Another thing is that all three of them have something else in common, as Florida Republicans—close connections with Governor Ron DeSantis. Gaetz was a valuable support to DeSantis—Gaetz and his pal Joel Greenberg—in the 2018 gubernatorial campaign

One former campaign adviser said Gaetz was on every conference call with advance teams “and generally was often just a key voice in directing the campaign what to do.”

“Man, I can’t tell you how much by the end of the election he was the campaign,” said another former DeSantis adviser who worked on the race. “By the time we were in heavy general election mode, DeSantis was not doing anything without Gaetz being in on it.”

and one of the things Gaetz did was to introduce Byron Donalds, who got the job of playing Andrew Gillum in DeSantis's debate preparation, which is not necessarily a small thing.

Another thing Donalds has done, which has got him a bit of a reputation for arrogance, was when he challenged the Trumpiest of the Trumpy Elise Stefanik over the position Stefanik had conquered from Liz Cheney, chair of the Republican House Caucus, even though he was still in his freshman term. He lost, of course, but he got himself noticed.

Donalds also has a truly weird little connection with DeSantis having to do with campaign finance laws, which he did an end run around in an interesting way in 2020, when he was a member of the Florida House of Representatives running for Congress:

In 2019, Donalds formed a state political committee called Friends of Byron Donalds and started raising money. Early in 2020, Donalds resigned as chairman of the committee and three days later filed to run for an open US House seat in southwest Florida.

Around that time, a super PAC called Trusted Conservatives registered with the FEC. When Friends of Byron Donalds closed its doors in June 2020, it sent its remaining reserves, about $107,000, to Trusted Conservatives. For the next three months, Trusted Conservatives spent most of that money on ads supporting Donalds or tearing into his Republican primary challengers. Donalds ultimately won the race by just 777 votes and was elected to Congress that November.

By rights, this should have been illegal on a couple of counts: you're not allowed to transfer money raised for a state election to a federal election, and a candidate isn't allowed to coordinate with the decisions made by a super PAC. But when a watchdog complaint on this went to the Federal Elections Commission, the FEC, helplessly divided 3-3, let it go, and Donalds got away with it; and this apparently made an impression on DeSantis, who himself is engaged in a federal run for the presidency with a gigantic war chest of money raised for the Florida governorship

The Florida governor is shattering national fundraising records as he seeks a second term, attracting gobs of money from Republican donors eyeing DeSantis as a potential presidential candidate in 2024. At the end of May, DeSantis was sitting on $111 million – more money than any candidate has ever needed to win an election in the Sunshine State. More donations come in almost every day.

And scuttlebutt says DeSantis was pretty impressed by Donalds's ingenious trick.

Which doesn't prove anything, obviously, but if you add in that other thing, about the other 2024 presidential candidate who lives in Florida, when he was passing out pardons to allies in 2024, but failed to offer one to Gaetz over the latter's complicated relationship with a number of very young women and a Venmo account and other misbehavior, even though Gaetz asked very politely, then it starts to add up a little, as a move against McCarthy, McCarthy being Trump's chosen candidate (however reluctantly Trump may have chosen him): Gaetz. Donalds, and Luna are organizing a little DeSantis caucus in the House, proposing to devote it to the DeSantis campaign.

Is this what Gaetz is organizing on the Hill? An anti-Trump campaign of the unpardoned (includes NeverKevers Scott Perry, Andy Biggs, Lauren Boebert, Paul Gosar, Jim Jordan, and I think Chip Roy)? I hope so. As ever, I'm rooting for injuries, but this is a way of understanding why it's so much fun.

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