Despite pledging a commitment to transparency after launching a new internet fundraising campaign following a run-in with Florida law enforcement officers last week, Rebekah Jones is refusing to respond to questions seeking more information about tens of thousands of dollars collected in an expired fundraising account.
She has also refused to provide details about donors or dollar amounts connected with a third fundraising effort attached to a company she owns.
Jones, a former Florida Department of Health (DOH) employee that claimed that she was fired for refusing to manipulate data to support Governor Ron DeSantis‘ plan to reopen Florida, launched her second GoFundMe page last week. The effort came just hours after Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) officers executed a search warrant on Dec. 9 at her home in Tallahassee. The search was part of an ongoing investigation that FDLE launched after receiving a complaint from DOH that someone at Jones’ residence illegally accessed a state emergency-alert messaging system.
Jones has denied any involvement with the alleged breach.
In an email exchange with The Capitolist, Jones acknowledged that her first GoFundMe fundraiser, which solicited funds specifically for her personal use, had “expired” on Sept. 30, and explained that she has tried to discourage donors from giving money there. However, she declined to answer follow-up questions seeking more information on her efforts to discourage those donations, or how more than 600 new donors have managed to pour in about $28,000 to the purportedly expired account since that time.
Jones launched a brand new fundraising campaign on Dec. 7th, just hours after FDLE agents served a search warrant on her home, which she describes as a “legal defense fund.” That effort, like the first, has amassed just under a quarter of a million dollars. At the time of this article, Jones has collected $499,656 between both fundraising pages.
But Jones is also pushing a third fundraising effort through a company she started, Florida Covid Action. She is actively soliciting contributions there but so far has refused to disclose her donors or the amount she has raised through that company. She declined to respond to two separate emails seeking comment about that effort.
The Capitolist first broke the news about Jones’s half-a-million-dollar fundraising efforts last week, but she insists that the groundswell of donations she has asked for and received shouldn’t be the main focus of any story.
“I’m not sure why everyone is so interested in my GoFundMe, of all things. Police raided my house, pointed guns at my kids, and took my stuff. That should be the story,” Jones told The Capitolist in an email.
But body camera footage released by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) appears to contradict some of Jones’ characterization of the incident that unfolded at her home (video 1) (video 2). And FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen told reporters yesterday that Jones has a history of dramatic run-ins with police. In 2016, Swearingen said the Louisiana State University Police Department charged Jones with one count of battery on a law enforcement officer and two counts of resisting arrest. He said she attacked an LSU police officer who prevented her from getting computer equipment from an office after she was fired by the university.
“She kicked him in the groin before he was able to subdue her, forcibly subdue her, until other officers arrived,” Swearingen said.
When asked to explain why she launched a new GoFundMe campaign even though she was still collecting money through the expired account, Jones blamed Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, even though she has previously posted on her website that she doesn’t actually believe the governor had any direct involvement in the broader conspiracy that she frequently talks about on national television and media interviews.
“I started the legal fund because it’s going to take a lot of money to fight DeSantis, and anything else he throws at me from here on. The retainer for my lawyer was $50,000. I did hire an armed security guard to watch over my home. That started last Tuesday. I also have a legal team who has been representing me in my whistleblower case since May.
Hours after The Capitolist first broke the story on her fundraising successes, Jones posted a clarification claiming that “unexpected expenses” were compounding in her fight against DeSantis who she believes was the mastermind behind the operation that seized her computer and other hardware.
“The police leaked my home address and telephone number, so I’ve now had to hire an armed security guard to watch over my place. I was warned there would be a lot of unexpected expenses during this fight, and they’re starting to pile up quickly, which is why I’ve raised the fundraising goal,” Jones said in the Dec. 9 update.
“Thank you to everyone who’s been generous enough to help. The more that is known about this, the clearer it becomes that DeSantis wants to wage a literal war on scientists in his state who don’t do things his way.”
Jones also removed language on why she created the second page after her confrontation with law enforcement.
“Looks like I need a new computer and a hell of a good lawyer,” Jones penned when first launching the page. “And if the governor manages to invent something to lock me away, my family will need help.”
On Dec. 10, Jones would issue another update on her page, claiming that the second campaign was “designed to allow large donors to help her fight back against DeSantis and there would be “visible accounting of every dollar” she received.
“I created this GoFundMe to enable transparency for those who wished to donate to my legal defense and related expenses to fight the Governor’s recent attack on my home, my work and my family,” Jones says.
“If you’re short on cash this year, please don’t donate here. I don’t want anyone giving me their last dollar. If you have limited resources to give, consider donating to a local organization to help those struggling with COVID-19, hunger, and poverty.
“This campaign was designed to allow large donors to help me fight this case with clear and visible accounting of every dollar I receive.”
The most recent update claims that the money would be used for things like lawyer’s fees, private investigators, armed security, moving expenses, and other costs associated with her fight.
“I built my reputation on transparency. That’s not changing,” Jones promises on her page.
“Whatever is leftover will be donated to a legal fund that helps provide pro-bono legal services in civil cases for whistle-blowers.”
When asked about her decision to move, Jones said her family has yet to but will be doing so soon in order to escape DeSantis.
“We have not moved yet, but plan to within the next month. I want to be out of DeSantis’ reach,” Jones continues in the email. “More than anything, I need my family to be safe.
“My husband and I discussed temporarily moving to New York near his family, but felt that moving to one place and then again to another shortly after was too much for the kids, so when we move it will be permanent. We’re still trying to figure out where. But no matter where I’m living, I will continue the work I’ve been doing for the last seven months in bringing data and resources to the public.”
Jones also lowered her stated fundraising goal — from $1,000,000 to $500,000.
The self-described “data scientist” says that some of the money she’s raised thru her new campaign was used to buy a new computer after FDLE officers confiscated her laptop and phone.
“I’ve already purchased some new hardware thanks to the fundraising, including a new computer,” she said. My lawyers are working on getting the rest of my stuff back, but it’s uncertain how that will resolve, and it could be months from now before I get anything back. I don’t think I would even want to use hardware the police have had access to once it’s returned, to be honest.”
Jones also addressed her initial GoFundMe page that she started on May 23 after she was fired — which alone has raised $256,668. Jones claims that the fundraiser ended in September, and that duplicate pages were using her story to raise money.
“My previous fundraiser expired in Sept., and the other one looks like a duplicate,” Jones said after we asked why her first fundraiser was still live. “I’ve been asking people not to give money to that one as I don’t know how it was created.
There are a number of fake accounts, fundraisers, etc., out there with my name on them, which is why I’m trying to communicate clearly what I’ve raised, what it’s for, and what accounts are actually mine.”
A GoFundMe spokesperson confirmed that while it was true that Jones’ original fundraiser was duplicated, both links sent users to the same account, which GoFundMe acknowledged was a glitch on their end — and not a third party scammer attempting to profit off Jones’ image.
“I can confirm that both campaigns here are set up by Rebekah Jones: https://www.gofundme.com/f/
The duplicate fundraiser has since been removed.