FDLE plane tracked traveling to New Hampshire airport, as DeSantis campaigned nearby

FDLE says plane used for ‘FDLE mission,’ not security

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A state-owned airplane typically used to transport Gov. Ron DeSantis on state business was tracked traveling to a city in New Hampshire at the same time as one of his presidential campaign appearances.

The Cessna 680 Citation Latitude is registered to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

According to ADS-B Exchange, an online flight tracking website, the plane departed Tallahassee International Airport at 6:45 p.m. on July 2, and it arrived at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport at 11:42 p.m.

DeSantis was seen marching in a July 4 parade in Merrimack, New Hampshire, which is located six miles away from the airport.

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FILE - Republican presidential candidate and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his wife Casey, walk in the July 4th parade, Tuesday, July 4, 2023, in Merrimack, N.H. DeSantis is cutting campaign staff as he struggles to catch former President Donald Trump in the GOPs crowded primary contest while facing sudden financial pressure. DeSantis let go fewer than 10 paid staffers late last week. That's according to a DeSantis aide granted anonymity to discuss internal campaign strategy. (AP Photo/Reba Saldanha, File) (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

FDLE Spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger told News 6 the governor did not use the plane on that trip.

“The jet is an FDLE asset used for more than transporting the governor,” she said. “In this case, it was used to fly FDLE members in fulfillment of our FDLE mission.”

News 6 asked if the plane was used as part of the governor’s security detail during his campaign stop.

“No, this did not have anything to do with governor security,” she said.

News 6 asked Plessinger what the “FDLE mission” was during this flight.

“Investigations and flight training,” she said. “I can’t discuss the investigation. Our pilots must have a minimum number of flight hours/training each month.”

DeSantis campaign officials did not respond to News 6′s request for comment.

Florida law prohibits political candidates from using state transportation to campaign.

“No candidate, in the furtherance of his or her candidacy for nomination or election to public office in any election, shall use any state-owned aircraft or motor vehicle, as provided in chapter 287, solely for the purpose of furthering his or her candidacy,” reads Chapter 106 of the Florida Statutes.

The statute does allow a candidate to reimburse the state for use of state resources in some circumstances.

According to DeSantis’ most recent campaign finance disclosure to the Federal Elections Commission in July, his campaign spent $76,289.87 on security. None of the money was paid to FDLE or the State of Florida.

The same report showed the campaign spent $896,452.86 on travel and travel-related expenses.

Again, FDLE and the State of Florida were not one of the payees.

The FDLE Cessna was originally purchased in 2019 with the purpose of transporting DeSantis, costing Florida taxpayers $1.2 million per year in financing.

A News 6 investigation last year showed the governor’s travel expenses jumping 50%.

His office did not request a budget increase for his travel or security in the recent legislative session, which is reflected in the budget he signed.

The Florida Legislature also passed a bill this year that shields the travel records for the governor and other state leaders, which DeSantis signed into law.

Supporters of the law cited security as the reason, but critics point out it makes it harder to track the governor’s movements as he campaigns around the country.

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About the Author:

Erik Sandoval joined the News 6 team as a reporter in May 2013 and became an Investigator in 2020. During his time at News 6, Erik has covered several major stories, including the 2016 Presidential campaign. He was also one of the first reporters live on the air at the Pulse Nightclub shooting.