TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis is leading the second overseas trade mission of his governorship, organized by the state’s economic development agency, Enterprise Florida, which his office says comes at no cost to taxpayers.
His stops in Japan, Israel, South Korea and the United Kingdom have the goal to “strengthen economic relationships.”
“It is a trade mission through Enterprise Florida, and just like the last one, is not paid for at the taxpayer’s expense,” DeSantis’ press secretary Bryan Griffin said. He declined to provide any details about the cost.
The last time, DeSantis and Florida Cabinet members traveled to Israel for six days, as DeSantis began his first term in office and vowed to become the most “pro-Israel governor in America.”
The cost of the 2019 trip was $442,504, with Enterprise Florida’s funds from private donors covering more than two-thirds of the cost, according to documents obtained by the News Service of Florida. Enterprise Florida is a public–private partnership supported by private donors and some public money.
Florida taxpayers, however, paid $131,000 related to the 2019 trip to cover lodging, airfare, and other travel costs for former Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, three of her aides, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis’ chief of staff, Attorney General Ashley Moody’s general counsel, three staffers with the governor’s office and security provided by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Documents also showed that a major source of private funds for the governor’s previous trade mission in Israel came from 12 private donors, including a donor to the governor’s political action committee, Friends of Ron DeSantis.
It is unclear whether the financial dynamics will be the same for this year’s trade mission, which includes four different countries. Griffin, the governor’s spokesman, indicated Enterprise Florida was paying for it.
The governor’s office did not provide much information about the governor’s foreign-trade mission ahead of time and told the Times/Herald to check the governor’s social media accounts and press releases for updates on his travels.
The governor is traveling with his wife, Casey, as well as Secretary of State Cord Byrd and Secretary of Commerce Laura DiBella. He first met with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, in which he lauded bilateral ties, especially the idea of a “strong Japan,” Reuters reported. The first lady has also posted photos on social media that show the couple’s daughter, Madison, and their son, Mason, are also with them on the trip.
The governor’s office has not said how long the trip is expected to last, so it is unclear when the governor will be back in Florida, where state lawmakers are scheduled to wrap up the 2023 legislative session on May 5.