On May 17, the Florida governor’s nine-seat private Cessna flew round-trip from Tallahassee to Tampa, where Gov. Ron DeSantis held a bill-signing news conference at a Christian school.
Two days later, the plane’s flight path surfaced on Twitter on a new tracking account dubbed @DeSantisJet, run by a Clermont college student named Jack Sweeney.
If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Sweeney, 20, is the same University of Central Florida student who last year started a controversial account tracking the private jet of Tesla and Twitter owner Elon Musk. That account, @ElonJet, drew the ire of Musk himself, who suspended the account (and those of journalists who covered it), threatened legal action against Sweeney and prompted Musk to announce bans for any account “doxxing real-time location info of anyone.”
Both the Musk and DeSantis accounts are based on flight data compiled by tracking enthusiasts and available to the general public, as are accounts Sweeney created to track jets owned by Russian oligarchs. He’s also tracked flights from the likes of Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Taylor Swift and Drake.
The DeSantis account is particularly noteworthy, as it was created shortly after the governor signed a bill allowing him to redact his travel records on state and private planes from public record — just before this week’s expected announcement of a 2024 presidential campaign.
DeSantis said this month that, while the bill was “not necessarily something that I came up with,” it was “motivated by a security concern.”
“I think the issue is, with the security situation, how you do patterns of movements if you’re somebody that is targeted, which unfortunately I am, and I get a lot of threats,” he said. “That could be something that could be helpful for people that may not want to do good things.”
Critics have argued the law is more about eliminating government transparency on the eve of DeSantis’ White House bid. Last week, The New York Times reported that DeSantis is relying on a network of donor jets to shuttle him around the country, including visits to key primary states, like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Those records are largely shielded from public view, making it difficult to track who’s paying for DeSantis’ travel.
Sweeney’s account specifically tracks a single jet owned by the state, not others on which DeSantis may have traveled — although, as the account notes, “if we become aware of those flights, it will also be shared here.” Sweeney also notes that DeSantis may not necessarily be on every flight tracked by the account.
Sweeney has in the past taken down jet-tracking data voluntarily. He removed an account following a plane owned by tech impresario and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban after Cuban promised him Mavs tickets.
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But he’s made clear that, while he’s willing to consider compensation in exchange for removing flights, he won’t do so just because he’s told.
“I’m definitely not going to just take it down,” he told the Tampa Bay Times last year.