A top Republican donor said he is withholding support for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis due to his stance on abortion and other social issues.
Earlier this year, billionaire businessman Thomas Peterffy told the Financial Times he was aiming to support DeSantis and was “looking forward” to backing a 2024 presidential bid. But in a Saturday interview with the publication, Peterffy stated: “I am more reluctant to back him. We are waiting to see who among the primary candidates is most likely to be able to win the general, and then put all of our firepower behind them.”
“I have put myself on hold,” Peterffy, the founder and chairman of Interactive Brokers, told the publication. “Because of his stance on abortion and book banning … myself, and a bunch of friends, are holding our powder dry.”
Peterffy was apparently referring to DeSantis having recently signed a six-week abortion ban into law last week. His reference to “book banning” is less clear, although he is seemingly using a left-wing talking point to refer to a measure that the governor signed that barred pornographic materials that DeSantis and state Republicans have said are not appropriate for public schools and children.
In a news release issued earlier this year, DeSantis said the “book ban” narrative is false. “Exposing the ‘book ban’ hoax is important because it reveals that some are attempting to use our schools for indoctrination,” the release said. “In Florida, pornographic and inappropriate materials that have been snuck into our classrooms and libraries to sexualize our students violate our state education standards. Florida is the education state and that means providing students with a quality education free from sexualization and harmful materials that are not age appropriate.”
Democrats in Florida have said that the law is tantamount to censorship and compared it to book burning. Democratic state Rep. Angie Nixon said earlier this year that the bill is part of the governor’s culture war efforts that will help him in a possible 2024 presidential bid.
“The governor’s actions today and his words just illustrate his political ambitions. He cares more about rallying a base of people who will support him in a future presidential bid than he does about making sure Floridians have access to housing, have access to quality health care,” she said. “The bill he signed today is going to cause more stress and strain on school systems.”
Also in the Financial Times interview, Peterffy said he still supports the governor in his approach to business in Florida, including how he has dealt with Disney. The multinational corporation, which operates Disney World in Central Florida, publicly opposed the Parental Rights in Education legislation, which prompted the governor to take aim at Disney World’s Reedy Creek Improvement District by signing a bill that would grant the state control over the sprawling district.
“I think it’s insane that a company would take a stand on gender issues,” he said.
Peterffy, 78, who is one of the most wealthy individuals in Florida, with an estimated net worth of more than $26 billion, has donated to a number of Republicans. In 2022, he gave $7.7 million to GOP campaigns and aligned PACs, according to data published by OpenSecrets. Now, billionaire Citadel founder Ken Griffin is the wealthiest person in Florida, according to Forbes.
Meanwhile, polls have shown that DeSantis appears to be slipping in a possible 2024 Republican primary matchup between him and Trump after the former president was arraigned in Manhattan earlier this month. Trump, meanwhile, has repeatedly targeted the Florida governor, saying he’s disloyal after he backed him during the Florida gubernatorial race in 2018.
Following Trump’s indictment, Peterffy said he no longer believed that DeSantis could take on the 45th president. “DeSantis seems to have lost some momentum,” he noted.
While it’s still not clear if DeSantis is aiming to run for president, recent moves suggest that he is strongly exploring the possibility, including speeches he’s given in New Hampshire and in other states.
Meanwhile, Trump announced last November that he would be seeking a third term in office. Other notable Republican challengers who have said they are running include former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy.
Article cross-posted from our premium news partners at The Epoch Times who have contacted DeSantis’s team for comment.