This potentially points to a deeper scam. DeSantis — whose presidential ambitions emit a stench akin to Limburger rotting in an old sock — is gushing with own-the-libs bluster, vowing to keep shoving migrants in the faces of elite liberals everywhere. But the ones truly getting “owned” by this farce are right-wing voters and Florida taxpayers. The more information that comes out, the clearer this will become.
In a useful piece NBC News’s Marc Caputo reports that the outfit contracted to ship migrants — Vertol Systems Company Inc. — has contributed tens of thousands of dollars to super PACs backing Florida GOP candidates. One funded Matt Gaetz, a right-wing media troll who moonlights as a congressman.
That company has been paid $1.6 million so far, per NBC, and the contract totals $12 million, supposedly to cover future shipments of migrants to other states. NBC also reports:
But the state budget authorizing the program specifies that “unauthorized aliens” are supposed to be flown from “this state” of Florida — not any other state — and Republicans who crafted the program this year said publicly that Venezuelans seeking asylum are not considered “unauthorized aliens” because they’re allowed to be in this country.
So a big question is whether state funding of the transport of migrants from Texas to Florida violated that budgetary language. On this basis, a Democratic state senator filed a lawsuit Thursday to block further funding for the flights.
Given all this, it’s not hard to discern why DeSantis won’t release the contract. Among other things, it could indicate that state money is to be used to fund the transport of migrants from other states to Florida.
“That contract would be evidence that the activity was contrary to the budget line,” Jon L. Mills, a lawyer and former speaker of the Florida House, told me.
That Democratic state senator’s lawsuit — which requests an injunction blocking taxpayer money from funding future migrant flights — will also seek release of this contract in discovery, Mills noted. If the contract shows the flights are in violation of the budget, a judge will likely grant that injunction.
“Given the facts as we understand them, that injunction will be successful,” Mills said. “I have to imagine that the governor’s lawyers and counsel are suggesting not to do this anymore.”
If correct, this might explain another bizarre move by DeSantis. After the outcry over Martha’s Vineyard, DeSantis stoked speculation that another planeload of migrants would soon arrive near President Biden’s Delaware home.
That particular Delaware plan apparently has been scrapped. Yet NBC reports that it resulted in that same GOP-connected company getting paid nearly $1 million by the state of Florida, even though no migrants were delivered. It seems plausible that DeSantis pulled back because it suddenly looked legally dubious. Yet the money was apparently paid.
So who is getting “owned” here? Again, it isn’t liberals. It’s Florida taxpayers.
The land of right-wing make-believe
DeSantis’s scheme — which faces a criminal investigation and another lawsuit from migrants themselves — is morally odious. As with the busing of migrants to liberal cities by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), it seeks to thrill the national right-wing audience with spectacle dramatizing the idea of migrants as a dehumanized infecting agent, as something that inevitably will be despised no matter where migrants are dumped.
But much of this saga’s “own the libs” component is unfolding in a land of right-wing make-believe. In such media precincts you hear again and again and again that liberals are enraged because migrants were introduced into their strongholds and liberals don’t want them around, exposing their hypocrisy.
What angered liberals was the deliberate dehumanization of migrants, not the burdens their arrival created for local governments. Yet right-wing figures simply keep repeating their fantastical version of liberal rage. To “own the libs,” you don’t have to “own the libs” at all. The mere declaration that it happened suffices, in a self-perpetuating feedback loop filled with vacuous self-congratulatory snickering about something that didn’t actually happen.
Defenders of this scheme sometimes claim it’s designed to show those liberals in their elite enclaves what border towns deal with. It’s true that transported migrants strain liberal governments. But who exactly is getting owned here again?
Liberals are taking on these strains as an affirmation of their values, and there are no signs of dimming liberal commitment to U.S. openness to asylum applications. Meanwhile, the truly “owned” party are those getting fed rancid fantasies about the supposed “impact” all this is having.
That DeSantis’s supposed lib-owning is being unmasked as a corrupt stunt fleecing taxpayers and right-wing audiences alike — one he’s sordidly covering up and may soon have to abandon — illustrates the point perfectly. Even if his marks don’t know it yet.