Major DeSantis donors later gave big to Chris Christie, records show

Paul Tudor Jones II wrote a $150,000 check to a pro-Christie super PAC, the group confirmed, after supporting DeSantis’ campaign.
Florida governor and Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis speaks to WSB radio host Erick Erickson at The Gathering conservative political conference in Buckhead on Friday, Aug. 18, 2023.
Florida governor and Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis speaks to WSB radio host Erick Erickson at The Gathering conservative political conference in Buckhead on Friday, Aug. 18, 2023. [ ARVIN TEMKAR | The Atlanta Journal-Constitution ]
Published Aug. 23

A prominent Ron DeSantis donor wrote large checks to former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s presidential campaign and a super PAC supporting Christie’s bid for the White House, campaign finance records show.

Paul Tudor Jones II, a billionaire hedge fund manager who lives in Palm Beach, donated $150,000 to a pro-Christie super PAC, Tell It Like It Is, on June 15. At the end of the month, he also gave the legal maximum of $6,600 to Christie’s campaign committee.

Christie has been among the sharper critics of DeSantis as both men compete for the 2024 Republican nomination for president. They will both be on the debate stage Wednesday night, and a debate strategy memo from a pro-DeSantis super PAC urged DeSantis to “defend Donald Trump in absentia in response to a Chris Christie attack,” according to the New York Times. Former President Trump is the front-runner for the Republican nomination.

Jones’ donation to the pro-Christie super PAC has not been previously reported. He has been considered one of DeSantis’ deep-pocketed supporters, after giving $1 million toward DeSantis’ 2022 reelection bid as governor.

The day after DeSantis announced his candidacy for president in May, DeSantis’ campaign cashed a $6,600 check from Jones. But the timing of the donations to Christie in June raises the question of whether Jones changed allegiances for 2024, or is backing both men.

A spokesperson for Jones declined to comment. Jones’ Florida voter registration shows he is not registered with a political party. He has donated to both Democrats and Republicans in the past.

Jones’ $150,000 contribution to the pro-Christie super PAC did not list his middle name — as is typical for his political contributions — nor did it list his home address in Palm Beach. Instead, the contribution listed simply “Paul Jones,” with the address of Jones’ company, Tudor Investment Corp., in Connecticut.

William J. Palatucci, chairperson of the Tell It Like It Is super PAC, confirmed to the Tampa Bay Times that the $150,000 donation was from the same person.

The DeSantis campaign did not respond to an email requesting comment Tuesday evening.

DeSantis’ presidential campaign raised an impressive $20 million in its first month and a half, according to federal filings, but spent it at a fast pace, leading to multiple staff shakeups and layoffs.

A super PAC supporting DeSantis, Never Back Down, has taken an unusually involved role in promoting the governor so far. It reported having nearly $97 million at the end of June, much of it from billionaires.

Yet as DeSantis’ candidacy has faltered, some of the governor’s biggest backers appear to be wavering in their support.

Jeffrey Yass, a GOP megadonor and Wall Street trading firm co-founder, also gave $250,000 to the Christie super PAC, as well as $600,000 to another group that supports Republican U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, another White House hopeful. Yass previously donated more than $2.6 million to DeSantis’ state political committee, most of it in February 2023 when the governor was bulking up funds that would later be transferred to his future presidential bid.

Get insights into Florida politics

Get insights into Florida politics

Subscribe to our free Buzz newsletter

We’ll send you a rundown on local, state and national politics coverage every Thursday.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

Billionaire hedge fund manager Ken Griffin, who previously gave DeSantis more than $10 million over his two elections for governor, had not donated to the DeSantis super PAC as of June 30.

And Las Vegas real estate and aerospace mogul Robert Bigelow told Reuters this month that he would not give more money to DeSantis unless the governor moderates some of his hard-right positions and attracts more donors. Bigelow was far and away the most generous DeSantis supporter in the period covered by the campaign finance records through June, writing a single check worth more than $20 million. That amount is more than some other Republican candidates have raised in their entire campaign accounts.

In recent weeks, DeSantis has pivoted away from emphasizing culture-war issues. He’s talked more about the economy, said definitively that Trump lost the 2020 election and stated in an interview that he’s “basically moved on” from his feud with Disney.

• • •

Test your knowledge: How well do you know Ron DeSantis? A quiz.

Catch up on coverage: Read these 11 essential Ron DeSantis stories from his hometown paper

Video: Three moments that made Ron DeSantis a national figure

The first lady: Casey DeSantis: The ‘X-factor’ in Florida governor’s inner circle