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Florida

Pier Operator Fighting Key West Cruise Referendum Gives DeSantis’ Committee $1 Million

TALLAHASSEE

The business developer who operates the Key West pier which gets most of the city’s cruise ship traffic has donated nearly $1 million to the political committee of Gov. Ron DeSantis. Legislation that would overturn a voter-approved referendum to limit cruise traffic is up for a vote in the House today and may soon be on its way to the governor’s desk.

At the onset of the legislative session, companies owned by Mark Walsh, a Delray Beach-based businessman who owns Pier B Development, gave $995,000 to Friends of Ron DeSantis, the political committee operated by the governor, according to data collected by the Florida Division of Elections and analyzed by the Herald/Times. DeSantis is expected to announce his bid for reelection soon, likely after the special legislative session scheduled for May 17.

Walsh leases the state-owned terminal on Key West Harbor in front of the Opal Key Resort and Marina, which his family owns along with dozens of other hotels. His company helped finance the opposition to the three referendums approved by Key West voters by wide margins in November. The effort involved a disinformation campaign, funded in party by a “dark money” scheme that included contributions from the cruise industry, which publicly stayed out of the campaign.

Read more at our news partner the Miami Herald.

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