Top Donor Provided Ron DeSantis, an Avid Golfer, With a Costly Simulator

Mr. DeSantis, a Republican, is running for the party’s presidential nomination in 2024 and is a chief rival to former President Donald J. Trump. Mr. DeSantis has previously faced scrutiny over potential conflicts in accepting generous in-kind donations from Florida business owners.

Some of those donations have avoided being reported under Florida campaign and ethics regulations, slipping through loopholes in state disclosure rules meant to prevent any undue influence.

The New York Times reported last month that such loopholes might have allowed Mr. DeSantis to accept private plane donations from Mr. Hosseini and others, sometimes without disclosure, as he traveled the country before he made his candidacy official.

Jeremy Redfern, the governor’s press secretary, said on Wednesday that the golf simulator loan was “coordinated by staff and approved by legal counsel.” Mr. Redfern added that previous administrations had accepted donations to the governor’s mansion. A list of the mansion’s acquisitions that was provided by the governor’s office included rugs and a Peloton bike donated to a previous administration.

On the campaign trail, Mr. DeSantis, an avid golfer, has been playing up his working-class roots in an effort to connect with voters in early voting states.

Yet he has relied on a cadre of rich Florida businesspeople, including Mr. Hosseini, for perks like private planes since he first ran for governor in 2018.

Mr. Hosseini, the chairman of ICI Homes, has long been a major player in Florida business and politics. He has donated his plane repeatedly to Mr. DeSantis’s political committee, dating to his early days in office, and has been a frequent presence in the governor’s office, according to two people familiar with the inner workings of the office who requested anonymity to speak freely.

He serves as chairman of the University of Florida board of trustees, often regarded as a highly coveted appointment. His appointment predated Mr. DeSantis’s first term in office, but he was reappointed by Mr. DeSantis in 2021.

In a statement, Mr. Hosseini said he had provided the golf simulator for use by the DeSantis family, guests and staff and understood it to be permissible under Florida law. He also said the state could keep it for as long as it wanted.

In a 2019 letter to Mr. Hosseini released by the governor’s office, James Uthmeier, who was then a lawyer for the governor and is now his chief of staff, said he had personally cleared the loan with the Mansion Commission and verified it as permissible under state ethics codes.

Mr. DeSantis’s opponents in the presidential nomination contest could seize on such donations and gifts as a contrast with his attempts to relate to working-class voters. This month he has campaign events in South Carolina and New Hampshire. The first debate of the Republican race is scheduled for Aug. 23 in Milwaukee.

The front-runner, Mr. Trump, has repeatedly sought to draw attention to Mr. DeSantis’s use of private donor planes. Jason Miller, a Trump aide, reacted to the news reports on Wednesday on Twitter, saying it was “Ron DeSantis’ Florida Swamp in Action!”

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