Florida Senate Breaks From Guv—Doesn’t Confirm Moms for Liberty Exec to Ethics Post

Getty Images/Michael M. Santiago
Getty Images/Michael M. Santiago

Florida Senate Republicans on Thursday refused to confirm the Moms for Liberty co-founder Tina Descovich to serve on an ethics commission—a rare break from Gov. Ron DeSantis’ requests from the legislature, which has operated at his behest in recent years.

Senators cited fears of a conflict of interest in denying Descovich the role on the Florida Commission on Ethics, with one unnamed lawmaker expressing concerns about “whether or not her employment constitutes lobbying before the legislature,” Senate spokesperson Katie Betta told the The Daily Beast.

The deferred vote, first reported by the Miami Herald, is the latest flop for Moms for Liberty and Descovich, who was flamed for repeatedly skirting questions in a cringe appearance on 60 Minutes this week. That appearance came on the heels of one of the organization’s co-founders, Bridget Ziegler, becoming embroiled in a sex scandal that went against everything the right-wing values Moms for Liberty says it stands for.

‘60 Minutes’ Confronts Moms for Liberty Co-Founders on Book Bans

Descovich’s denial to the ethics post is another recent instance of the Florida legislature rejecting the asks of DeSantis, who had a strangle on the state’s politics before he crashed out of the 2024 presidential election in January.

Earlier this week, the legislature’s final budget did not allow New College of Florida to keep $15 million in nonrecurring funding that it got in last year’s budget—something DeSantis had publicly requested for the university where he initiated a right-wing takeover last year. The legislature also halved the amount of money DeSantis asked for to fix a mold problem at New College, cutting the requested $12.5 million down to $6.25 million.

Descovich already sits on the state ethics board and is the executive director of Moms for Liberty, which has led the charge for book bans and the ousting of school board members in Florida who don’t get in line with their conservative, anti-LGBTQ views.

Betta told The Daily Beast that DeSantis has 30 days from the end of the legislative session (which concludes on Friday) to reappoint Descovich to the commission; her term ends in June. The Senate will likely weigh her confirmation again when it reconvenes in March 2025.

Under Florida law, Betta said, any appointee with a pending Senate confirmation will continue to serve on their respective board. (Members of the ethics committee serve two-year terms.)

“Every year, there’s a handful of appointees that for one reason or another may not make it through the whole process,” Betta said. She added that this year, however, was light on statewide appointments.

Meanwhile, Senate president Kathleen Passidomo told the press on Thursday that Descovich “was appointed sort of late in the process.”

“It’s a two-year process. The governor could reappoint her, so we didn’t feel a pressure to do anything,” Passidomo said, before referring to a citizen filing a complaint and “politicizing the process.” She added that the Senate has “a really good relationship” with DeSantis.

Moms for Liberty has garnered a national influence since its founding in Florida in 2021, but its influence is strongest in the Sunshine State.

With DeSantis at the helm, the group has lobbied for and pushed through legislation that has radically altered education in Florida, including the passage of the infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill in 2022, the banning of hundreds of books—including some about LGBTQ people and even Jackie Robinson—and a public battle with the College Board over the contents of its AP African American History class.

Equally right-wing PragerU content content has also made its way into Florida classrooms, along with new U.S. history curriculum that is teaching Florida children that slavery brought “personal benefit” to Black people in the South. DEI programs are also now banned from using state and federal funds at public universities in Florida.

While the Florida Senate didn’t confirm Descovich this week, Betta told the Herald she could still be confirmed to the position next session if DeSantis re-appoints her, which he’s expected to do.

Moms for Liberty-Linked School Board Member Steps Down After Shoplifting Charge

At a confirmation hearing for Descovich, the Herald reported that Democrats grilled her for her prominent position within Moms for Liberty while working as an elected official.

Descovich reportedly countered that she views her work at Moms for Liberty as being separate from what she does on the commission.

She didn't seem rattled by the Senate punt, telling The Daily Beast in a statement, “It is one of my greatest honors to be a Governor’s appointee to the Florida Ethics Commission. I respect the decision of the Senate to wait until next session and I will continue to provide any information they may need from me as a part of the confirmation process.”

After the hearing, the Herald reported that a concerned resident emailed state senators with an ethics complaint, alleging that Descovich was unqualified for the position because members of the ethics commission are barred from lobbying state and local governments.

Moms for Liberty is not a registered lobbyist in Tallahassee, but the resident—Robert Burns, the editor of the The Space Coast Rocket—argued that the organization has clearly lobbied the state in regards to policy, including Descovich personally. That email may have been what tipped the scales in favor of Descovich not being confirmed—at least not this time around.

While rare, Thursday’s decision to not confirm Descovich isn’t the first time the Florida Senate has rejected a DeSantis appointee. Before his rise to national prominence during COVID-19, the Senate declined to confirm the conservative lawyer John MacIver to lead the Division of Administrative Hearings in 2020.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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