Florida Republican Governor Ron Desantis arrives to launch his campaign for the 2024 Republican nomination for US President with an evening campaign rally at Eternity Evangelical Church in West Des Moines, Iowa, USA on May 30, 2023.
Scott Morgan | Reuters
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is coming to New York for a private presidential campaign fundraiser that will be hosted by at least four Wall Street executives, including one with past ties to a firm backed by liberal billionaire George Soros, a frequent target of DeSantis and other Republicans.
The event is set to take place on June 29 at the posh Yale Club, according to a copy of the invitation seen by CNBC. It will be one of DeSantis’ first fundraisers in the Big Apple since officially launched his campaign for president last month.
New York is a lucrative fundraising hotspot for both parties. Donors in the New York metro area contributed more than $680 million to their preferred political candidates during the 2022 election cycle, according to data from nonpartisan OpenSecrets.
DeSantis’ invited hosts include Paul Ardire, a partner at GoldenTree Asset Management, along with Christian Michalik, Rob Michalik and Corwynne Carruthers, who are all leaders of Kinderhook Industries, a private equity firm with at least $5 billion in assets under management. , according to PitchBook data. GoldenTree has at least $50 billion in assets under management, PitchBook says.
Shortly after this story was published, Ardire called CNBC to say he had been “accidentally” added to the rally’s host list. CNBC saw two different invitations to the event that showed him as a co-host.
“I think it was a misunderstanding,” Ardire said. “I said, ‘Maybe I could come to the event,'” he added. Ardire said he will not attend the event or endorse DeSantis for president because GoldenTree does not allow partners to endorse state officials in office. DeSantis is still the governor of Florida and GoldenTree has an office in West Palm Beach, Florida.
According to the invitation, in order to participate in the DeSantis fundraiser, a co-organizer must raise $50,000 and lunch attendees must contribute $6,600, the maximum amount a donor can give, which can then be split equally between the primary campaign account and the general election account.
One of the hosts, Michalik, was a partner at Soros Private Equity Partners, a leveraged buyout fund sponsored by George Soros, according to Michalik’s firm biography on Kinderhook’s. Website.
According to Michalík’s LinkedIn page, he was a partner there from 1999 to 2003 before founding Kinderhook. Soros’ private equity firm was part of Soros Fund Management, which was once structured as a hedge fund but is now organized as a family office. In 2001, Michalik was appointed to the board of Texas-based RLX Technologies after Soros’ fund invested $40 million in the company, according to The Houston Chronicle.
Michalík gives to Republican officials sporadically, according to OpenSecrets data. One of his largest donations came in 2006 for $10,000 to the Republican Party of Florida. During the 2022 election cycle, Michalik gave $5,800 to Jesse Reising, a Republican who lost a primary for an Illinois House seat.
DeSantis targeted candidates funded by Soros, the Democratic mega-donor. “In Florida, we recognized the threat posed by left-wing prosecutors who are elected typically with large campaign contributions from people like George Soros,” he said earlier this month while on the campaign trail.
Soros is common target attacks by other Republicans.
In a statement to CNBC, DeSantis’ press secretary, Bryan Griffin, said: “Governor DeSantis enjoys broad support, including Disney expats and even a former Soros employee who rejects the revival and embraces law and order. We welcome any contributions to oppose the Soros agenda and benefit the American the people.”
A campaign spokesman pointed to DeSantis’ comments in a recent interview: “Somebody’s donating to a campaign and you’re supposed to stand up for them? That’s not how I work. People can support me or they can’t. I make the call as I see them and if you supported me, you’re wrong , I will do what is right.”
Michalík did not immediately comment to CNBC.
Earlier this year, Soros he said during a speech at the Munich Security Conference that he hopes the GOP presidential primary comes down to Trump and DeSantis, which the billionaire said could force the former president to run as a third-party candidate.
Another co-host is longtime DeSantis ally Robert Giuffra, co-chairman of legal giant Sullivan & Cromwell, according to the invitation.
Giuffra is the only event co-sponsor to make six-figure contributions to Republican causes since the 2016 election cycle, according to campaign finance records.
The relative lack of contributions from the other hosts suggests a possible lack of interest among some larger GOP donors in the business community to help DeSantis, according to a Republican strategist familiar with the event. The person declined to be named for fear of retaliation from DeSantis and his team.
This strategist described the host line-up as surprisingly lackluster, with Giuffra as the only standout.
Steve Schwarzman, CEO of private equity giant Blackstone and a veteran GOP megadonor, is reportedly reluctant to endorse DeSantis after meeting with the Florida governor, according to to Bloomberg. Still, even without help from the likes of Schwarzman, DeSantis raised over $8 million in the first 24 hours of his campaign’s launch.
Giuffra did not return requests for comment.
DeSantis and the event’s co-organizers have ties to the fundraiser venue, as they are all Yale alumni. Only those who have earned a degree from an Ivy League school or “full-time graduate students completing a degree-granting program at Yale and full-time professors” are eligible to become members of the Yale Club, according to their website.
DeSantis graduated from Yale in 2001. In a book published just before he ran for president, DeSantis said he considered earning a degree from Yale the equivalent of being the political “scarlet letter” in the Republican primaries.
“I am one of the few people who came through both Yale and Harvard Law School and was more conservative than when I entered,” DeSantis wrote in his book. “If I could endure seven years of indoctrination at the Ivy League, then I would be able to survive Washington, DC without becoming a native.”