The largest individual donor to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign effort has said he will stop donating to DeSantis unless changes are made to the campaign, according to a report by Reuters.
Robert Bigelow, a multimillionaire, and owner of the Budget Suites of America, has donated over $20 million to the Never Back Down PAC, the principal super PAC supporting DeSantis’ campaign — accounting for two-thirds of the PAC’s fundraising in the first half of 2023.
On Friday, Bigelow said that he would stop funding DeSantis’ campaign until it exhibited a more moderate policy platform, according to comments made to Reuters.
“He does need to shift to get to moderates. He’ll lose if he doesn’t. … Extremism isn’t going to get you elected,” Bigelow said, before adding that he wouldn’t donate more money “until I see that he’s able to generate more on his own. I’m already too big a percentage.”
Bigelow had previously contributed $10 million to DeSantis’ Florida gubernatorial reelection campaign in 2022, which at the time exceeded the sum of all donations he had received, NBC News reported. Bigelow once said he would “will give him more money and go without food,” to support DeSantis, according to Time Magazine.
In objecting to DeSantis’ campaign, Bigelow said he opposed Florida’s enactment of a “heartbeat” abortion law in April, which bans the aborting of pregnancies in the state after a fetal heartbeat is detected, usually after six weeks of pregnancy. Bigelow said that the threshold was too early and prohibited abortions even before many women know they are pregnant, Reuters reported.
Still, Bigelow told Reuters that DeSantis remains the “best guy for the country.”
Another large donor, Andy Sabin, who owns a metals manufacturing company, announced in May that he would cease supporting DeSantis’ campaign over abortion issues. “I don’t think he can win a national election with his viewpoint on abortion,” Sabin told Reuters in a separate interview.
Many conservative and religious groups — such as Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, Concerned Women for America, and the Catholic Church — oppose all abortions and have pressed DeSantis’ campaign to take more anti-abortion positions.
DeSantis has made socially conservative policies regarding gender, education, and abortion the central theme of his campaign.
Another aspect of Bigelow’s criticism was the declining interest of donors in supporting his candidacy. Several billionaire GOP donors — such as hedge fund manager Ken Griffin and investor Jeffrey Yass — have withdrawn their support for DeSantis over his conservative policies, according to Politico, while other billionaires, such as Blackstone founder Steve Schwartzman have declined to support him.
Bigelow said he had conveyed his concerns to DeSantis’ campaign manager, Generra Peck. “There was a long period of silence where I thought maybe she had passed out,” he said. “But I think she took it all in.”
DeSantis currently has 15.7% support nationwide in the Republican presidential primary, according to RealClearPolitics. Former President Donald Trump has 53.7% support.
DeSantis’ presidential campaign and the Never Back Down PAC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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