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Ron DeSantis and presidential campaign supporters spent $95,000 on an Iowa religious leader’s event

The relationship and possible endorsement from Vander Plaats is considered the real value of the investment.

Published: August 12, 2023 12:04pm

While Florida Governor and GOP presidential candidate Ron DeSantis has been shaking up his struggling campaign for the GOP nomination, the campaign has made a large investment to try to help win the important Iowa Caucus on January 15 of next year, the first contest in the months-long race to win the nomination.

DeSantis and his backers paid $95,000 in recent months to the Family Leader Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Iowa and led by evangelical leader Bob Vander Plaats, reports Reuters, citing “campaign finance reports and a document prepared by an Iowa state lawmaker who was helping the Vander Plaats organization raise money for a July 14 presidential candidate forum.” The DeSantis backers included a PAC linked to him and a non-profit group that is supporting his campaign.

The $95,000 got them three pages of ads in a program distributed at the Des Moines forum, which was attended by 2,000 Christian conservatives, plus tickets to the summit, lunch and an after-dinner event.

But the relationship and possible endorsement from Vander Plaats is considered the real value of the investment.

Approximately two-thirds of the participants in the 2016 Republican caucus identified as evangelical, according to Edison Media Research, a polling organization.

Vander Plaats, 60, is very influential among that group. His last three Republican presidential candidate endorsements all won the Iowa caucus, but did not ultimately win the nomination. Those were former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee in the 2008 election, former Senator Rick Santorum in 2012 and Senator Ted Cruz in 2016.

Six candidates in all spoke at this year’s event, and each participated in the after-dinner event which was one-on-one interviews done by former Fox News host Tucker Carlson.

Two of this year’s candidates, Vivek Ramaswamy and Senator Tim Scott, or groups associated with them, spent $25,000 each on ads in the booklet, campaign finance reports and the document show.

Former President Donald Trump was a no-show. “‘That was Trump’s loss,’ Vander Plaats said in a post on the messaging platform X, formerly known as Twitter,” according to Reuters. “He added that it ‘becomes more clear...people want to turn the page.’”

“My endorsement has never been and never will be for sale,” Vander Plaats said. “My only interest is in bold, courageous, principled leadership for this country.”

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