With settlement done, will Disney restart political donations?

Disney World
'Is it possible for Disney to stay out of political and social agendas and just provide entertainment?'

At the height of Disney’s feud with Gov. Ron DeSantis, the entertainment conglomerate stopped making political donations in Florida. Now that it has reached a settlement with the DeSantis-controlled board over its local taxing district, will the campaign donations start to flow again?

The settlement ends the legal fight in state court over control of Disney World’s Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD) and over contracts approved just before DeSantis’ appointees took over.

Disney also agreed to stop fighting for public records in another lawsuit and is closer to reaching a resolution over its federal complaint against DeSantis.

In that suit, Disney claimed that DeSantis and the Legislature infringed upon the company’s First Amendment rights when they removed Disney’s self-governing status over the Reedy Creek Improvement District — the prior name of the CFTOD — in retaliation for its opposition to a law banning instruction of gender identity or sexual orientation in the classroom.

For Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) Chair Evan Power, DeSantis has won the fight and he’s willing to let bygones be bygones if Disney wants to start donating to campaigns again.

“With the settlement they basically gave in to what the state wanted,” Power said in an interview. “I’ve always believed that Disney will come back to the table.”

During Wednesday’s shareholder meeting, a proposal to require the company to be more transparent in how it spends political donations was voted down. But the pressure against donating to DeSantis and other Republicans who bashed the company remains.

One Disney shareholder group — the Educational Foundation of America, a charitable trust funding progressive causes — called on Disney to disclose its political contributions and be held accountable for giving money to Republicans who opposed abortion rights, weren’t fighting against climate change or who retaliated against Disney in Florida.

“We believe it’s time for Disney to provide accountability to shareholders that it is spending its political dollars wisely and in alignment with its core principles and interests,” said Laura Nixon, the foundation’s Reproductive Health and Justice Program Director.

“In recent years, Disney contributed over $100,000 to an administration that took aim at Disney’s employees, mocked the company’s values at a national level and then punished Disney by diminishing its tax breaks and degree of self-governance.”

Disney backed off its lawsuit and won’t challenge the actions of the CFTOD, giving DeSantis a significant victory, but DeSantis has also made conciliatory moves toward a détente as well.

He appointed Stephanie Kopelousos, a former legislative and governmental affairs director in his administration, to be district administrator of the CFTOD. Kopelousos helped insert a carve-out for Disney into a bill pushed by DeSantis to crack down on Big Tech companies in 2021. After the fallout with the company, DeSantis convinced the Legislature to remove the exemption.

Disney didn’t respond to a request for comment on whether it would restart political donations in Florida. Power said Disney representatives haven’t reached out to RPOF yet, and RPOF hasn’t ramped up its fundraising efforts yet this cycle and haven’t gotten in touch with Disney for possible donations.

If Disney were to start cutting checks to Florida politicians again, it would close the chapter on a remarkable breach between an iconic Florida company and the state’s chief executive.

When DeSantis first declared political war on Disney in 2022, the company responded by suspending political donations.

For such a symbolic company — all but synonymous with Florida’s global tourism brand, which had given large amounts to Florida lawmakers’ campaigns over the last two decades — to make such a move underlined how heated the dispute had become.

Disney had been a prodigious benefactor for both major parties, but especially for Republicans, who have controlled the legislative and executive branches in Florida since 1999.

The clash began after Disney’s then-CEO Bob Chapek spoke out against legislation championed by DeSantis to ban classroom instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation.

The company gave $190,000 to help elect Republicans — $125,000 to RPOF and $65,000 to the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee (FRSCC) — ahead of the 2022 Regular Session and just weeks before Chapek’s condemnation of the bill.

During the feud, some GOP lawmakers — including Reps. Joe Harding of Ocala, Webster Barnaby of Deltona and Elizabeth Fetterhoff of DeLand — returned donations from Disney and its affiliates in the 2022 cycle. Harding returned $3,000, while Barnaby and Fetterhoff returned $2,000 each.

Harding was the sponsor of the Parental Rights in Education law.

“I can’t be aligned with a corporation taken over by the woke Leftist mob mentality coming out of California and other blue states,” Harding said in a statement at the time. He was later indicted for fraud stemming from the use of a federal pandemic loan program and resigned.

Barnaby and Fetterhoff were drawn in the same district during the redistricting process and ran against each other in a 2022 Primary, which Barnaby won. He didn’t return a call for comment Wednesday.

But the RPOF, the FRSCC and DeSantis, who received $50,000 from Disney in March 2021, and $100,000 during his first campaign for Governor in 2018, didn’t return the Disney cash.

No matter what Disney decides, its involvement or non-involvement in political campaigns is now a major inflection point for the company.

Disney’s involvement in politics was brought up several times during the shareholder meeting.

“Is it possible for Disney to stay out of political and social agendas and just provide entertainment?” one shareholder asked CEO Bob Iger.

“Our job is to entertain first and foremost,” Iger responded.

But he added that “we’re committed to telling stories that reflect the world around us and using those stories to entertain people from all walks of life. I’ve always believed that we have a responsibility to do good in the world, that we know our job is not to advance any kind of agenda. So as long as I’m in the job, I’m going to continue to be guided by a sense of decency and respect, and we will always trust our instincts.”


Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics contributed to this report.

Gray Rohrer


  • Bland Floridian Serves Pudding Sans Spoons

    April 4, 2024 at 5:29 pm

    DeStoopid isn’t going to be working at Grand Floridian, much as he wishes so.

  • Earl Pitts "THE NEW MAYOR OF REALVILLE" American

    April 4, 2024 at 7:38 pm

    Good evening Florida,
    While I, Earl Pitts American, cant make any 100% gurantees, the immediate resumption of generous “Good Faith” political donations by Disney to all Florida based Republican Candidates will likely delay or even totally Shut-Down the quickly approaching July 2024 release of the list of all the visitors to Epstien Island. I, Earl Pitts American, can neither confirm nor deny ifva long list of Disney Executives either is or is not on that list of visitors to Epstein Island.
    Think about it …. you purchase insurance on your home, life, business, and car …. right?
    Think about it
    Earl Pitts “EARL’S NAME IS NOT ON THAT LIST” American

    • Rick Whitaker

      April 4, 2024 at 7:45 pm


  • Lex

    April 5, 2024 at 8:38 am

    Why do companies have political agendas? They are publicly traded and are owned by shareholders. Disney is an entertainment company. Shouldn’t they be trying to sell to the broadest audience possible? Wasn’t their brand a wholesome kid-friendly bastion? A smarter company might see two audiences and split their brand. But why does Disney want to alienate roughly half the country?

    • Dont Say FLA

      April 5, 2024 at 9:26 am

      Lex, Busch Gardens is already here for the poors.

  • Dont Say FLA

    April 5, 2024 at 9:22 am

    If Rhonda will sign a statement about how it’s the G0P, not Disney, that’s grooming your children (and also grooming the dumbest third of adults with their childlike minds [minus the curiosity]) , then sure. Yes. Disney will restart political contributions.

  • Dont Say FLA

    April 5, 2024 at 9:29 am

    Funny how nobody complained about Disney’s politics back when it was all white supremacy themed.

    Oh, is that what MAGGA wants from Disney? LOL who’d ever have thought?

Comments are closed.


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