TALLAHASSEE — One of the Rudy Giuliani associates who appeared with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on the campaign trail had attempted to secure an appointment to one of DeSantis’ transition committees after the 2018 election, DeSantis said Tuesday.
Lev Parnas, a U.S. citizen originally from the Ukraine and one of the two indicted South Florida businessmen accused of funneling foreign money into U.S. elections, helped host two fundraisers for DeSantis and donated $50,000 to his campaign through a Delaware corporation.
DeSantis has since directed that money to be handed over to the federal government, but questions have dogged the governor as new photos and videos have emerged over several days depicting DeSantis with Parnas and his partner, Igor Fruman, together at several campaign events.
When asked how he was first introduced to these men and by whom, DeSantis dodged the question, saying that he didn’t have much to add to his previous comments on the matter — that he knew Parnas “like any other donor.” He added, though, that Parnas “had no involvement in any policy or anything involving the administration.” DeSantis has previously said of the two men, he knew Parnas better than his partner, Igor Fruman.
“In fact, one of the fundraisers in South Florida that worked on these fundraising events for us received a request from him (Parnas) to be on one of our transition committees for public safety. That request was denied, so he was not on that committee,” DeSantis told reporters following a Cabinet meeting. He did not identify the fundraiser.
After he was elected governor, DeSantis established several transition advisory committees, each devoted to different policy areas, that met for several weeks to provide recommendations for his agenda on each topic. The members were appointed by DeSantis.
Parnas’ request to serve on one of those committees, which had not been previously revealed, indicates a direct attempt to influence DeSantis’ early policy positions. The two men had also pursued breaking into Florida’s burgeoning medical marijuana industry, but were unsuccessful.
Parnas and Fruman are both in federal custody for alleged campaign finance violations, and have also been subpoenaed as part of the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump because of their role in helping Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, try to find damaging information on political rivals in the Ukraine.
After DeSantis’ office initially said that he had no relationship with either of the men, new photos and videos emerged of Parnas and Fruman at DeSantis’ watch party on Election Night, even sharing hugs after he declared victory.
On Monday, Politico Florida reported new photos that depicted Parnas at two separate November campaign events across the state on the same day, raising questions about whether they rode in a plane with DeSantis to get there.
Helen Aguirre Ferré, spokeswoman for DeSantis, told Politico that Parnas did not ride on DeSantis’ plane and instead flew with Giuliani, who was also in attendance.
DeSantis added Tuesday that once he asked his political committee to send the $50,000 donation to the U.S. Treasury, he told them, “'Let’s just move on with it’ — and that’s what we’re doing."