Why did Ron DeSantis go limp when Georgia-Pacific abandoned a small Florida town?

DeSantis 5.16.23
He'll take the debate stage in California Wednesday night while mill workers an hour south of Tallahassee wonder if they’ll make their next mortgage payment.

He launched a legislative blitz against Disney when it dared to weigh in on a law aiming to stamp out talk of LGBTQ issues in schools. He demanded the state try to sue Bud Light’s parent company after the beer brand involved a transgender actress in a marketing campaign. He dedicated the bulk of a Legislative Session to his war against “Big Tech” companies.

But when — in an audacious display of greed — Georgia-Pacific threatens the existence of the rural town of Perry, all that known-corporate-assailant Gov. Ron DeSantis can muster is a feeble request for severance benefits in a barebones statement devoid of criticism of the paper giant.

Why? The issue is too real. There’s no sexy culture-war angle. It doesn’t exhibit any of that forbidden wokeness and DeSantis won’t touch something that doesn’t advance his national ambitions. He’s far too busy losing a presidential campaign. Moreover, the Koch-owned Georgia-Pacific is only being cutthroat and cruel, precisely the kind of business traits that DeSantis and his party tolerate and encourage.

Georgia-Pacific threw the entire town of Perry into jeopardy when it said last week that it would soon shutter its Foley Cellulose mill. The announcement was as corporate as it gets: a nine-sentence press release to end 70 years of hard work and 525 jobs.

In a flash, one of the largest employers in Taylor County pulled the rug on the people of Perry — population of around 7,000 — as they still licked their wounds from the Category 4 Hurricane Idalia that swept through the area just weeks ago.

One might think that a corporation puts itself in political crosshairs when it inflicts deliberate economic devastation in the aftermath of a massive hurricane. But it wasn’t until nearly two days after the announcement that DeSantis quietly released a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter.

It read in relevant part: “I am calling on Georgia-Pacific to do what’s right: pay severance and insurance that will bridge the gap and allow these hard working Floridians to get back on their feet — especially after a hurricane.” He also said there will be a job fair to help those displaced, hosted by an agency that has long been tasked with doing just that.

No official press release. No site visit. None of his usual authoritarian hallmarks like manipulating the levers of government to punish corporate dissenters. The statement doesn’t begin to hint at anything resembling admonishment and yet it’s authored by a man who’s been so eager to wield the stick in the past. If Disney chief Bob Iger so much as sneezed at Tallahassee, it would prompt more of a reaction from DeSantis.

Perhaps the lackluster response is explained by the fact that DeSantis is a busy man. He’s on mission to build as much clout as he can as his presidential campaign enters end-of-life care.

Just look at what did fetch more attention from the executive branch last week, such as the Chinese Communist Party’s alleged influence over some of the best private schools in the state. That somehow merited its own Friday press release — a transparent attempt to manufacture news for his national campaign over the weekend.

Even if DeSantis did care about the mill closure, he’s all but abandoned his official responsibilities. There were “no scheduled events” on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, according to daily schedules released by the Governor’s Office. That trend continued on Monday and Tuesday of this week.

On Wednesday, he’s in California while mill workers an hour south of Tallahassee wonder if they’ll make their next mortgage payment. This apparent dereliction alone illustrates a possible rationale behind a “resign-to-run” law DeSantis repealed just as he geared up for his presidential campaign. Ironically, DeSantis is spread too thin to handle the state, and yet he’s running in part on the idea that an executive leader should be energetic and powerful because of the demands of the job.

There’s also something more sinister driving the lack of response from DeSantis: modern Republican philosophy. GOP politicians, the bulwarks of late-stage capitalism, cannot jump ship when a corporation rears its ugliest head. When controlling shareholders and executives prioritize yearly returns over human lives, Republicans at large find themselves in a bind. How can you criticize something about which you’ve done nothing but facilitate?

That’s especially true for DeSantis, who’s tried his very best to prevent corporations from considering anything other than raw profit when making decisions. Earlier this year he prioritized and signed a landmark blow to environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG), something he dubbed as “a worldwide effort to inject woke political ideology across the financial sector.”

In truth, the businesses that attract ESG investors are those that take a more holistic approach to strategic decisions. That’s an inexplicably terrifying prospect for DeSantis.

But what about actual corporate savagery? What about the reality that hundreds of Florida families have had their lives upended in the name of profit? To DeSantis and his contemporaries, that’s just business as usual.

Danny McAuliffe

Danny is a contributor at floridapolitics.com. He is a graduate of Fordham Law School and Florida State University, where he served as the editor of the FSView & Florida Flambeau. Reach him at [email protected].


21 comments

  • Earl Pitts "He Calls 'Em As He Sees 'Em" American

    September 27, 2023 at 6:24 am

    Good mornting America,
    This was at best a total streach by the author to make the GP shutdown connected to Desantis. And America, the author epically failed. Even the homer testical snyde title hook of “Going Limp” did not help.
    Desantis will be the next POTUS (not Trump) and there is nothing poor limp wristed fiction desguised as journalism can do to stop or even slow Desantis down.
    Because, yeah, your side under the demented Biden administration was just that bad.
    I mean seriously liberals what were you thinking?
    Thank you America,
    Earl Pitts American

    • JD

      September 27, 2023 at 8:23 am

      DeSantis will never be POTUS. And he could have been the Choosen One. But he decided to be a culture warrior with zero personality.

      “You were the chosen one! It was said that you would destroy the Culture wars, not join them! Bring balance to the Florida Republican Party, not leave it in extremism!”

    • WiseOld1

      September 27, 2023 at 10:32 am

      Sorry Earl, “NO,” DeSantis will not be president. Well, at least ‘not’ of the United States of America. 🇺🇸

    • Rick Whitaker

      September 27, 2023 at 7:25 pm

      go to bed, loser

    • Robyn Halstead

      September 27, 2023 at 7:57 pm

      Thank you for injecting truth into this inane babbling thinly disguised as journalism. This guy makes real balanced journalism look so good. He hasn’t lived long enough to have a valid, uninfluenced opinion.

  • My Take

    September 27, 2023 at 6:52 am

    A man with personal desires but no principles.
    “Thoroughly unlìkable” (J Rubin)

  • Tom

    September 27, 2023 at 7:36 am

    Goes to show what a spineless sack of crap rhonda really is. He’s happy enough to beat on minority groups but when faced with real issues that he could do something about, you get crickets. Good thing he will never be President.

  • Michael K

    September 27, 2023 at 8:25 am

    Thank you! Excellent analysis and summary. Spot on – this explains it:

    “Why? The issue is too real. There’s no sexy culture-war angle. It doesn’t exhibit any of that forbidden wokeness and DeSantis won’t touch something that doesn’t advance his national ambitions. He’s far too busy losing a presidential campaign. Moreover, the Koch-owned Georgia-Pacific is only being cutthroat and cruel, precisely the kind of business traits that DeSantis and his party tolerate and encourage.”

  • JD

    September 27, 2023 at 8:27 am

    Where is the cleaning up of the “Swamp”? It’s like Patronis hanging with Big Sugar this week.

    Shameless and pathetic. And they revel in the fact, like rubbing the working person’s face in it.

    Nepotism and Cronyism. That’s why he’s not for the “working person” and Florida will suffer because of it.

    If it doesn’t have political theater as currency, a taxpayer job he can gift to a sycophant, or a donor get greased, he doesn’t care.

    Keep voting in those Republicans and we will get more of this.

    “It’s not the heat, it’s the stupidity”

  • Jackson Holmes

    September 27, 2023 at 9:22 am

    This is a GREAT ARTICLE, exemplifying BIG OIL’S DEPRAVED INDIFFERENCE MURDER OF THE ENTIRE STATE OF FLORIDA.

    KOCH BROTHERS & BIG OIL SUBVERTED CLIMATE CHANGE SCIENCE — and for that matter the US Supreme Coutrt ala Harlan Crowe and The Federalist Society to create Citizens United to corruptly enrich and empower itself — such that KOCH BROTHERS HELPED CAUSE SUPER HURRICANE IDALIA, LAYING WASTE TO PERRY, FL IN PURSUIT OF PROFITS.

    Florida and Perry should SUE THE KOCH BROTHERS for causing Idalia to become a Super-Hurricane.

    FLORIDA SHOULD SUE THE KOCH BROTHERS FOR HELPING CAUSE SEA LEVEL RISE, WHICH WILL OVER THE NEXT 200 YEARS DROWN (MURDER) THE ENTIRE STATE.

    THE KOCH BROTHERS, AFTER THEIR DEPRAVED INDIFFERENCE MURDER OF PERRY, FLORIDA, SHOW US WHAT THEY WILL DO AFTER 200 YEARS, WHEN THEY FINISH DROWNING — MURDERING — OUR ENTIRE STATE, WITH SEA LEVEL RISE!

    TURN THEIR BACKS AND WALK AWAY FROM THEIR MURDER WITHOUT A DCINTOILLA OF REMORSE.

    Sincerely,

    Jackson Rip Holmes

    • Rick Whitaker

      September 27, 2023 at 7:22 pm

      i agree, the article hit a home run.

  • Michael Garrity

    September 27, 2023 at 9:58 am

    It’s not surprising that this is the way DeSantis has handled this situation. I warned those I know who said they were voting for his re-election as governor, that he was going to focus more on his blind presidential ambitions than he was in being governor. The guy is basically AWOL in his concern for the state and people of Florida. He is a sickening, vile human being.

  • Richard Russell

    September 27, 2023 at 10:21 am

    Check Ronny campaign donor list to see how much G-P contributed or if there were some other “Perks”. Ronny is beholden to Mosaic with their $500,000 total in campaign funds and who knows what else. Thanks Ronny for allowing Mosaic to dump their toxic substances onto our highways.

    • TJC

      September 27, 2023 at 12:25 pm

      Careful, RR, you’re sounding a little liberal there with that “allowing Mosaic to dump their toxic substances…” Next thing you know you’ll be caring about the whales.

    • Rick Whitaker

      September 27, 2023 at 7:19 pm

      richard hater russell. why in the hell are you agreeing with a leftie like me? it must be some kind of trick on your part. koch brother ( one brother died of lifting too much money) is a christian white supremacist and always has been. the left have been exposing him for decades now, where were you, watching fox or www wrestling. you maga cult people better wake up or you’ll be living in a hell you helped create. the maga politicians would take money from the devil,if there was one. destroying the planet is profitable , so desantis and trump are all for it. the left is for all p[eople, the right (you included) lies to people and gets them to vote against their own interests. i assume most of the georgia pacific closed plant employees voted for the maga right. propaganda is bad, watch out for it if your smart enough.

  • MaidofRohan

    September 28, 2023 at 7:19 am

    What, exactly, did you expect him to do? Force them to remain in business against their will? You’re advocating that the government take over business? There’s a word for that.

    I’m from this area; we’ve had mills close before. Sure, it’ll be a hit to an economy already broken by the hurricane and Biden’s inflation, but someone else will buy the mill and reopen it when the market makes it profitable to do so. Talks are already underway with paper companies. This is a slanted hit piece full of vitriol and darned little fact.

    • Rick Whitaker

      September 28, 2023 at 10:43 am

      your comment was a maga comment. no one suggested that a company be forced to stay open. that’s a maga garbage statement. it’s the reputation of koch brother that is at issue. not enough regard for employees or environmental issues, that is the issue. unfortunately the government has to monitor greedy abusive companies and nudge or force them to act in accordance to ethical and responsible policies that is the issue. i don’t expect a maga cult person to understand that. by misstating the point, you proved me right. you either don’t know about the ownership of GP, or you approve of treating workers bad. desantistan needs more unions to protect the workers. the article was a very good one, i don’t know what yo u read. i’ve noticed that macca ( make america christian confederacy again ) people see what they want to see and truth is discounted. are you a macca person?

  • Rick Whitaker

    September 28, 2023 at 10:52 am

    you wouldn’t know a lie from truth based on your comment. just how long do you think a person has to live to have a ” valid uninfluenced ” opinion. i’m in my 70’s, is that enough? ageism is a bias you seem to have. shame on you

    • Rick Whitaker

      September 28, 2023 at 11:25 am

      sorry wrong post wrong comment

    • Rick Whitaker

      September 28, 2023 at 11:30 am

      sorry, wrong post, wrong comment

Comments are closed.


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