Lobbyists and law firms, oh my: Sponsors rolled out red carpet in Israel
Gov. Ron DeSantis at Ariel University, 2019. [Photo: A.G. Gancarski]

israeli trip - desantis university
Draft itinerary was shared with delegation—but not the public

What do top-tier lobbying and law firms, the Florida Realtors association and an Israel bond organization have in common?

They all sponsored events for members of a delegation that Gov. Ron DeSantis led to Israel in late May.

A list of seven sponsors was included in a “confidential” draft itinerary put together by Enterprise Florida, an economic-development agency that receives state and private money.

The agency helped the governor plan the trip, and the draft itinerary was shared with the nearly 100-member delegation days before it jetted off to Israel with DeSantis and Florida Cabinet members.

Ahead of the trip, most of the details were kept under wraps including sponsorships, the itinerary and estimates of the total cost of the trip.

But more than a month after the trip ended, those details are seeping through public records obtained by The News Service of Florida.

In addition to revealing information about private sponsors for the trip’s receptions, the records show that Florida Cabinet members and staff members spent at least $30,000 in tax dollars on airfare, hotel rooms and other travel costs.

Seven organizations sponsored receptions during the six-day trip, meant to solidify Florida’s relationship with Israel, according to the itinerary Enterprise Florida shared with the delegation.

Sponsors included Geeks and Nerds, a cybersecurity and software company; the GrayRobinson law and lobbying firm; the Greenberg Traurig law and lobbying firm; Visit Florida, the state’s tourism-marketing agency; the Florida Realtors association; Israel Bonds, which sells Israel bonds in the United States; and Tellus, a digital health-care company.

The events included a reception at the Tel Aviv residence of U.S. Ambassador David Friedman, sponsored by Florida Realtors and Greenberg Traurig, and a dinner hosted by Israel Bonds with Israeli business leaders.

VISIT FLORIDA, which sponsored a reception on the second night of the trip, announced on Tuesday that there will be new air service between Tel Aviv and Orlando. El Al Israel Airlines has agreed to provide direct summer flights between Orlando International Airport and Tel Aviv in July and August.

As a public-private agency, Enterprise Florida helped organize the trip through financial support it gets from the state and private donations.

Sponsorships are one of the ways that Enterprise Florida receives private funding, said Kathleen Keenan, an agency spokeswoman.


Republished with permission of The News Service of Florida. 

Ana Ceballos

Ana covers politics and policy Before joining the News Service of Florida she wrote for the Naples Daily News and was the legislative relief reporter for The Associated Press and covered policy issues impacting immigration, the environment, criminal justice and social welfare in Florida. She holds a B.A. in journalism from San Diego State University. After graduating in 2014, she worked as a criminal justice reporter for the Monterey Herald and the Monterey County Weekly. She has also freelanced for The Washington Post at the U.S.-Mexico border covering crime in the border city of Tijuana, where she grew up. Ana is fluent in Spanish and has intermediate proficiency in Portuguese.

One comment


    July 11, 2019 at 2:54 pm

    This was a disgusting and totally over-the-top display of business and political corruption on the sucker public’s dime! The only real question for Floridian’s is which of the politicos is making the most money off this disgrace of an all-expenses-paid ‘junket’!

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