Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis is covering his tracks when it comes to travel outside the state, because apparently running for president on the campaign trail means the last thing you want people to know is where you are.
With a stroke of a pen, Gov. Ron DeSantis concealed his travel records – past, present and future – from public scrutiny at the same time he’s made frequent trips outside the state as a prelude to a possible presidential campaign kick-off.
It was difficult to trace the governor’s travel before he signed the bill into law Thursday night, which went into effect immediately. Hundreds of requests for the records going back more than a year are still in the pipeline.
Now it will be even harder, First Amendment advocates said.
“The retroactivity makes it such that we’re not going to get anything related to his travel,” said Michael Barfield, director of public access for the Florida Center for Government Accountability.
The bill, approved along party lines in both chambers, exempts travel records maintained by law enforcement agencies for the governor, his immediate family, the lieutenant governor, Cabinet members, legislative leaders and other dignitaries.
It also shields the names of guests to the governor’s mansion on non-government business.
While the bill applies to pending requests, a spokeswoman with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which maintains those records, said they will not be expunged.
“We’re still going to process requests like we always have,” Florida Department of Law Enforcement spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger said, denying that any pending requests are going to automatically be denied. “If there’s an exemption, we’ll apply it.”
When a record comes up, the FDLE’s public records officers pull it and review it to see if anything needs redaction. Each report is reviewed in the order received, Plessinger said.
“Once a request is received it can take a few months to review because of the volume of requests,” she said.
FDLE has over 700 requests on the backlog, some asking for investigations, member emails, as well as travel records, she said.
Reporters and the public will still be able to get the cost of security and travel, but not details such as which hotels they stay in because they frequently return to the same hotels, she said.
The annual reports summarizing the cost of travel and security for the governor, his family and other state officials and dignitaries will continue to be published, she said.
Republicans, who hold a supermajority in both chambers, said the law was needed to ensure the safety and security of the governor and other officials, as well as the officers who protect them when they travel. The exemption would prevent people from mapping out their future movements as well.
The trouble to have his party craft legislation to specifically hide who state officers meet with means apparently it's none of Florida's business who DeSantis does business with, and protecting DeSantis from having to tell voters is crucial enough to make a law prohibiting it.
Voters should respond by throwing the lot of them out of office.