Florida Democrats are attempting to make hay out an appearance at Gov. Ron DeSantis’ election-night party by one of the Ukrainian businessmen – and possibly his co-defendant – arrested on federal charges of steering overseas money into U.S. politics.
“Ron DeSantis has a lot of questions to answer about his relationships with Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman,” party executive director Juan Penalosa said in a written statement. “DeSantis has skirted around the truth. It’s clear that he had a relationship with both men and owes Floridians the truth about what kind of influence they have over him.”
On Monday, Reuters reporter Joey Roulette posted on his Twitter feed video footage of Parnas standing closely behind the governor-elect and Casey DeSantis as they addressed reporters. On Tuesday, the Tampa Bay Times published a staff photo showing DeSantis appearing to chat directly with Parnas, both of them smiling.
The Times said it appears the photo shows Fruman taking a picture of DeSantis and Parnas with his cellphone camera.
The governor’s press office issued a written statement Monday, declaring: “Parnas frequented Republican campaign events and the election night event was open to the public. Gov. DeSantis has not met one-on-one nor spoken with Parnas since taking office.”
Following news of the arrests, DeSantis divested himself of $50,000 in donations Parnas and Fruman made to his campaign through their company, Global Energy Producers. Additional GOP beneficiaries of their campaign largesse including U.S. Sen. Rick Scott.
The Times reported that Parnas hosted two fundraisers for DeSantis during 2018.