The Treasury Department is now investigating whether the taxpayer money Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) spent to fly Venezuelan migrants to Martha’s Vineyard for political theater last month came from federal COVID-19 relief.
Richard Delmar, the department’s deputy inspector general, sent a letter to a congressional delegation of Massachusetts lawmakers on Friday saying that his office was reviewing Florida’s use of the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund (SLFRF) that was established by the American Rescue Plan.
“We will review the allowability of use of SLFRF funds related to immigration generally, and will specifically confirm whether interest earned on SLFRF was utilized by Florida related to immigration activities, and if so, what conditions and limitations apply to such use,” Delmar wrote.
The Treasury official said the department planned to “get this work underway as quickly as possible.”
Delmar’s letter, which was released by Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) on Wednesday, came in response to the request Markey and five other Massachusetts lawmakers had sent on Sept. 16 asking for a probe into DeSantis’ potential abuse of the aid.
“States should not be permitted to use COVID-19 relief funds for any parochial interest unrelated to the pandemic, particularly for naked political conduct that imposes severe and unjust harms on disadvantaged groups of individuals,” the lawmakers wrote.
While the $12 million DeSantis poured into the gambit didn’t come directly from Congress’ COVID-19 relief funds, it did come from the interest his state had earned off the aid, per the Washington Post.
A spokesperson for the GOP governor, Taryn Fenske, told Politico that DeSantis’ budget office had discussed using the interest for the Martha’s Vineyard flights with the Treasury Department inspector general’s office “weeks ago,” and that “reviews by Treasury are typical and, as stated by the OIG, are ‘part of its oversight responsibilities.’”