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DeSantis’ office acknowledges golf simulator from wealthy donor, raising ethics concerns

<i>Sean Rayford/Getty Images</i><br/>Presidential candidate and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is seen here on June 2 in Gilbert
Sean Rayford/Getty Images
Presidential candidate and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is seen here on June 2 in Gilbert

By Steve Contorno, CNN

(CNN) — The office of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis acknowledged on Wednesday the state has in its possession a golf simulator that reportedly was given to the governor’s mansion by a wealthy political donor with close ties to the Republican governor.

The Washington Post and Reuters reported Wednesday that Mori Hosseini, a Florida developer and longtime GOP donor in the state, had lent a golf simulator to the governor’s mansion in 2019.

Asked about the reports, DeSantis spokesman Jeremy Redfern referred CNN to a statement he issued to the Post which did not dispute the source of the simulator.

“As with all donations, it was accepted and coordinated by staff and approved by legal counsel,” Redfern said in the statement. “Donations to the residence and grounds have been received over many administrations. It will remain in the state’s possession for the use of first families, their guests, and staff as it is now.”

The Post and Reuters, citing records obtained through public information requests, reported that James Uthmeier, a DeSantis lawyer at the time and now his chief of staff, wrote a letter to Hosseini in 2019 acknowledging receipt of the simulator to be stored “within the Florida Governor’s Mansion gym and will be returned to you immediately upon request.”

“I have reviewed and approved the circumstances of this loan to the Mansion Commission and verify that it is permissible in accordance with the Governor’s Ethics Code and Florida Statutory Code,” Uthmeier wrote.

CNN has not independently reviewed the records.

DeSantis did not disclose the gift to the Florida Ethics Commission, a spokeswoman for the agency confirmed to CNN. State law requires elected officials to disclose gifts valued at over $100. The golf simulator, however, was characterized as a loan and was given to the governor’s mansion, which is overseen by a state agency.

CNN has reached out to Hosseini for comment. Hosseini told Reuters that the simulator “was provided to the residence gym, as things have been in the past, for the use of the family, guests, and staff, during this and subsequent administrations.”

Hosseini is a close political ally of the governor and has donated more than $265,000 to DeSantis’ political operation over the years through his home building company ICI Homes. DeSantis appointed Hosseini to the University of Florida Board of Trustees where he has helped the governor reshape the state’s flagship university according to his conservative vision for higher education.

DeSantis is a known avid golfer. He met his wife Casey DeSantis on the driving range in 2006. In memos first reported by the Tampa Bay Times in 2019 and since obtained by CNN, his political operation once planned for donors to pay between $25,000 and $100,000 to golf with DeSantis.

The-CNN-Wire
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CNN’s Kit Maher contributed to this story.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

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