Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office appears to have been in contact with the office of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott regarding DeSantis’ migrant flight program, according to documents obtained by American Oversight and reported on by the Miami Herald.
On Sept. 14, a group of about 50 migrants were flown from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., on flights chartered by DeSantis’ administration, an exploitative political stunt that has led to several lawsuits. Other documents publicly released last week in response to requests from the Florida Center for Government Accountability revealed that top DeSantis aides, including Larry Keefe, his “public safety czar,” played a key role in planning for the flights, including potentially having traveled to Texas to oversee the program.
The records separately obtained by American Oversight from the Texas governor’s office, also reported on by the Herald, include a text message that was sent at some point between Sept. 1 and Sept. 19 by DeSantis’ chief of staff, James Uthmeier, to Abbott’s chief of staff, Luis Saenz.
In the message, Uthmeier shared Keefe’s contact information. “Luis, I’ve asked a guy on my team, Larry Keefe, to be POC here, and he can loop in others as needed,” Uthmeier wrote. “He serves as one of the boss’s senior advisors for public safety. He’s a former US Atty under Trump, trustworthy and effective.”
Earlier this month, American Oversight obtained contract records from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) containing memos outlining flight costs, requisition and purchase order documents, and the approval of advance payment of $615,000 by FDOT to flight contractor Vertol Systems Company. The total amount paid to Vertol has so far exceeded $1.5 million in taxpayer funds. According to the Herald, before joining the administration, Keefe worked as an outside lawyer for Vertol.
The records released late last week also indicated that Vertol Systems was extending the dates of its service proposal until Dec. 1, and that other flights to Delaware and Illinois were also potentially being planned. American Oversight had also filed public records requests for those documents; those responses are available here.
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