DeSantis Goes Trump — Dispatches Cease and Desist Letter to Stop Attack Ad with U.S. Sugar ‘Fingerprints’

DeSantis Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL)
AP/J. Scott Applewhite

TALLAHASSEE, Florida – Florida Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam’s allies might have attacked front-runner Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) as being out of touch with President Donald Trump, but DeSantis’ campaign has responded with a Trump-style attack to counter those claims.

One of the Florida gubernatorial primary race’s early controversies involves an onslaught of negative, and according to the DeSantis campaign, “defamatory” ads from the National Liberty Federation (NLF), a 501(c)(4) social welfare nonprofit that is not required to disclose its donors.

The ads claimed DeSantis was out of step with President Donald Trump and “voted to give food stamps to people who were in the United States illegally.” The ad further claimed DeSantis “has taken hundreds of thousands from Wall Street, defense contractors and wealthy lawyers.”

In an April 13 story for Politico Florida, Matt Dixon described the ads as having “U.S. Sugar’s fingerprints” on them. Dixon explained that U.S. Sugar’s had opposed DeSantis given he has voted against the company’s “top-tier priorities.”

“Most notably, he was one of just two Florida members of Congress to support an amendment that would have made reforms to the national sugar program, including reducing direct subsidies,” Dixon wrote.

The DeSantis campaign is fighting back by vigorously disputing the claims in the radio ad.

In a cease and desist letter dispatched on April 10 obtained by Breitbart News, Charles R. Spies, an attorney for the DeSantis campaign blasts the ads as “demonstrably false and defamatory.”

“NLF’s ad propagates maliciously false information to your listening audience about Ron DeSantis’ position on illegal immigration,” the letter said. “The claim in the advertisement that Congressman DeSantis ‘voted to give food stamps to people who were in the United States illegally’ is false, and has no legitimate evidence to back it up. Because this is not a candidate advertisement, but instead sponsored by a third-party group, you have no obligation to air this advertisement.”

“With this letter, we are putting your station on formal written notice that the content of the ad is false and defamatory,” it continued. “If you continue to grant access and air it, then your station bears responsibility for its content, and your station will be knowingly running an ad that is false and defamatory – in other words with actual malice or with reckless disregard for the truth of the statements.”

The letter was sent to outlets airing the ad and warned continuing to air it could impact their FCC licenses and come with legal liabilities.

Indeed, as Breitbart contributor Steven Hantler pointed out last week, DeSantis voted against the 2014 Farm Bill that had Barack Obama’s food stamp program in it.

The campaign also noted President Donald Trump has praised DeSantis and said he would make a “GREAT governor of Florida,” which contradicts the ad’s suggestion DeSantis is out of sync with Trump.

Despite the widespread distribution of the minute-long spot in Florida from the Panhandle to Keys, and in the Washington, D.C. market as well, Putnam’s campaign has denied knowledge of it.

Read the full cease-and-desist letter:

Follow Jeff Poor on Twitter @jeff_poor

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