Griffin, DeSantis’s Top Donor, Wishes He’d Stay Out of Mask Wars
(Bloomberg) -- Billionaire hedge fund manager Ken Griffin, Ron DeSantis’s biggest financial backer this year, criticized the Florida governor for blocking mask mandates as Covid cases and deaths surged.
“I’ve been frustrated with his position on masks because it has overshadowed his messaging on vaccinations,” Griffin, the founder of Citadel and Citadel Securities, said in an interview Monday with Bloomberg’s Erik Schatzker at the Economic Club of Chicago.
“He’s caught himself up in a political maelstrom of putting the concept of personal freedom first and foremost around masks, and I understand the principle. But Florida’s a really diverse state. He should have let each county make a decision on its own.”
Griffin’s $5 million gift on April 30 tops donations to DeSantis’s political action committee this year. A fifth of the $55 million that DeSantis has raised in 2021 came from hedge fund billionaires, private equity bankers, investment managers and other donors from the finance industry.
Even with one of America’s oldest and most vulnerable populations, Florida escaped more than a year of the pandemic with a relatively average fatality rate, even as DeSantis kept schools and businesses open. But the delta variant had a clear impact, sending the Sunshine State up to no. 9 in the country in cumulative deaths per capita.
DeSantis, meanwhile, hesitated to adjust his messaging in the face of the new threat, actively blocking school districts from implementing mask mandates and initially downplaying the surge itself as media “hysteria.”
DeSantis hasn’t formally declared he’s running for reelection as governor in 2022, much less for president. But speculation has mounted that he’s eying a bid for president in 2024, and his fight against mask mandates could hurt a potential bid for office, Griffin said.
“I think that a really great talking point for somebody looking to run for president is to make it clear that you will do whatever it takes to protect our most vulnerable,” Griffin said. “And I think he’s lost that window of opportunity.”
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