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DeSantis’ Office Reveals Cost of Israel Flights

TALLAHASSEE – After saying nothing for days about the price to Florida taxpayers of multiple flights to and from Israel that evacuated almost 700 Americans, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office has begun to shed a little bit light on the matter.

Disputing a report that the state had authorized spending up to almost $50 million to at least one contractor for the charter flights, a spokeswoman for the Florida Division of Emergency Management said Wednesday that figure was not “based on any real invoices or expenditures.”

As a substitute, Alecia Collins, with the division, said that as much as $19 million in open purchase orders has been approved for ARS Global Emergency Management, certainly one of the businesses involved within the flights which began the weekend of Oct. 13.

Collins said this was the “maximum” authorized for this contractor and that the quantity will “proceed to be refined as invoices are received.”

Three purchase orders with ARS totaling near $50 million and dated this month are included in a Florida financial services database and can have guided the reporting. Collins didn’t offer an evidence for reasons behind authorized amounts exceeding the $19 million.

Special session set: Florida special session set on Iran sanctions, insurance and more

Headline grabbing flight: Israel evacuation effort likely would have happened without Florida’s support

ARS was involved in last yr’s transport by the DeSantis administration of about 48 mostly Venezuelan asylum-seekers from San Antonio, Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, off the Massachusetts coast.

DeSantis refused releasing migrant flight records – until court-ordered

The DeSantis administration for weeks also refused to offer any public records related to the way it lured these people onto flights until ordered by a Leon County judge following a lawsuit brought by the Florida Center for Government Accountability, an open government group.

ARS hasn’t gotten attention within the trips to Israel. As a substitute, Project Dynamo, a Tampa-based nonprofit that helped organize the evacuations, has been the general public face of the rescue flights, which DeSantis has touted repeatedly as he runs his longshot campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.

DeSantis also has fundraised off the flights, sending emails to potential donors which might be critical of President Biden.

Fundraising off flights, for lagging campaign

The pitch for dollars for his lagging campaign promotes his own actions which sent “plane after plane to bring a whole lot of American families home and shipped hundreds of donated critical supplies to Israelis in need.”

DeSantis issued an executive order and declared a state of emergency on Oct. 12, only five days after Hamas fighters invaded Israel, to evacuate the state’s residents from the conflict zone. It’s not immediately clear what number of Floridians are among the many 700 Americans moved out of Israel on the state-backed flights.

U.S. residents have been flown back to Florida on 4 flights, with more aid made available by state agencies and volunteer organizations. Two cargo planes carrying 85 pallets of donated supplies have also been sent to Israel, in response to DeSantis’ office, including medical supplies, clothing, and kids’s toys.

The Republican-controlled Legislature, in coordination with DeSantis, will even go into special session from Nov. 6-9 to formally express support for Israel and to expand state sanctions against Iran, which has supported Hamas.

DeSantis’ give attention to efforts backing Israel could also be intended to curry favor amongst Jewish voters and donors. But certainly one of Florida’s more outstanding Jewish Republicans, Rep. Randy Fantastic of Palm Coast, turned on the governor Tuesday and flipped his support within the presidential race to former President Trump.

Fantastic flips on DeSantis, questioning his support for Jewish Floridians

Fantastic, who had been a DeSantis ally, lashed out at DeSantis for not taking motion against a handful of demonstrations on college campuses in support of Palestine, which he said called for “the extermination of Jews.”

Fantastic also ridiculed the governor for failing to voice forceful opposition to neo-Nazi rallies which have taken place around Florida over the past yr.

Campaigning in Latest Hampshire, DeSantis said Fantastic, a candidate for the state Senate, was only attempting to ingratiate himself to Trump and was bitter about being omitted as president of Florida Atlantic University. DeSantis also cited the flights from Israel.

“What other governor has rescued people from Israel?” DeSantis said. “I mean, like I marshalled resources. We brought back near 700 people.”

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