The curtain lifted – just slightly – on a pair of intriguing political plots last week, both of them unfolding in South Florida.
The first involves another veto surprise by Governor Ron DeSantis, more evidence of him being under the influence of a left-leaning environmental activist group that finds itself embroiled in nasty lawsuit over data that may have been used to sway DeSantis’s veto decision.
The second involves a George Soros-backed radio station takeover using former conservative Al Cárdenas to provide some cover for a naked political attempt by Democrats to shore up their rapidly shrinking Hispanic base.
This week, we unpack both issues.
Allegedly stolen scientific data at the heart of DeSantis veto?
Last week, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis dropped another of his surprise vetos, this time on SB 2508, a water bill that represented a series of grand compromises within the legislature to get it over the finish line. Several of those compromises were designed specifically to appeal to DeSantis, who had signaled his displeasure with some aspects of the bill back in February.
Environmental activists, including the Everglades Foundation, have since been actively lobbying the governor’s office to kill the bill.
Once the amendments were made, a strong Republican majority passed it, with opposition coming primarily from Democrat lawmakers – backed by legacy media outlets like the Orlando Sentinel. If ever there was a signal that DeSantis has somehow gotten his wires crossed on an issue, look no further than when the state’s legacy newspapers find themselves agreeing with a governor they hate even more than they hated Rick Scott.
When the bill passed the legislature, the state’s environmental activist lobby kicked things into high gear, with the Everglades Foundation’s lapdog group, Captains for Clean Water, getting caught running a crude out-of-state astroturfing campaign to help try to force DeSantis to swerve left. It worked, and the Everglades Foundation gushed support for our governor:
“There is no better friend of the Everglades than Ron DeSantis,” said Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg.
It remains unclear just what motivates DeSantis to repeatedly side with the most controversial, left-wing environmental activist groups in the state. Notably, the Everglades Foundation is still embroiled in a sketchy lawsuit against one of its former scientists, Tom Van Lent, alleging that he stole scientific data from Everglades Foundation computers. But curiously, the Everglades Foundation has moved to seal the court record to prevent the public from seeing their scientific data – information that may have been used to help sway the opinions of public officials like DeSantis – and thus should be a matter of public record.
Van Lent has accused the Everglades Foundation of putting politics over science, charges that The Capitolist has leveled at the Everglades Foundation for years. Whether or not the Everglades Foundation’s secrecy will be protected by the court remains to be seen, but if DeSantis or any public policy was influenced by the data they allege was taken or destroyed by Van Lent, the public deserves to see it.
A conservative token for George Soros’s liberal radio takeover?
Al Cárdenas used to be one of the GOP’s greatest assets, a larger-than-life Florida political operative, a big-thinking Hispanic conservative with a resume that checks all the right boxes, including service in the administrations of both Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He’s held key positions at the Republican National Committee, led the Republican Party of Florida, and even served as chairman of the American Conservative Union.
But that was then, and this is now.
Cardenas is now the front man for a liberal-backed Hispanic media acquisition team targeting Spanish language radio stations around the country. He and his high profile progressive partners have embarked on a $60 million venture to take over 18 Spanish-language radio stations in 10 media markets – including a conservative radio station in Miami. The others are also concentrated in areas where Democrats are losing ground to Republicans among Latino voters. Make no mistake that this is a highly political effort – if any doubt exists, just look at who else is involved: a pair of former campaign veterans with both Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton.
The group also has direct links to George Soros, as noted by Governor Ron DeSantis during campaign stops last week.
For these Democrats, landing Cárdenas might seem a good way to make the radio station acquisition appear more ideologically balanced. But Cárdenas got off the Republican bus a few years ago. His final act was serving as senior advisor and fundraiser for the 2016 Jeb Bush presidential campaign.
We all know how that ended.
Like many Florida Republicans who have deep respect for Bush, Cárdenas wasn’t happy with the way the eventual nominee treated his preferred candidate, nor was Cárdenas a fan of Donald Trump’s stated immigration policies. But instead of keeping quiet for four years, Cárdenas instead violated the long-standing Reagan code of conduct and attacked a fellow Republican. He later described the move as being a whistleblower on Trump, who in Cárdenas’s view, violated the policy first with his attacks on Jeb.
Whatever the justification, Cárdenas continues to drift further leftward. In 2019, he married CNN talking-head and Republican pariah Ana Navarro, a woman who basks in the media affection she gets for gleefully bashing fellow Republicans.
Why Cardenas has abandoned his commendable legacy and thrown his lot in with left wing operatives is an open question. And it’s one that inevitably leads to other, more difficult questions for the recipients of Cárdenas’s lobbying largesse. Recently, a spate of GOP political candidates have given cash back to Disney when the company got too progressively political.
Might the same case be made for financial contributions bestowed by Cárdenas to win influence with certain Republican campaigns?