Facts vs. fiction in final GOP gubernatorial debate

Fact-checking comments that flew between Ron DeSantis, Adam Putnan

By Steve Patrick - News4Jax digital managing editor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Does "big sugar" bankroll Adam Putnam's campaign and is Ron DeSantis' campaign funded by pornographers and other West Coast interests?

Those questions and accusations that DeSantis supported double-digit tax increases and Putnam supported amnesty for illegal aliens were among the barbs flew Wednesday night during the News4Jax/Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute Republican Gubernatorial Debate.

Sometimes there are clear answers. Sometimes the truth is more nuanced. But here are the facts we know behind some of the claims.

Adam is the errand boy for U.S. Sugar. He’s going to stand for them.” - Ron DeSantis

Yes, Florida's sugar growers and political action committees that get a significant amount of their funding from the industry have given Putnam’s campaign and his Florida Grown PAC nearly $8.5 million. According to the Miami Herald, that's about $1 of every $5 that Putnam has raised.

This comes at a sensitive time as the industry is given much of the blame for contributing to the algae bloom in Lake Okeechobee that are spilling out onto waterways across South Florida.

REPLAY: Entire WJXT/JU Public Policy Institute GOP Debate

“My opponent’s contributions have come from casino owners and pornographers on the West Coast.” -- Adam Putnam

Putnam's charge that DeSantis takes money from casino owners and pornographers. It's a reference to $200,000 donation to the DeSantis campaign from Ahmad "Andy" Khawaja, CEO of California-based Allied Wallet, an e-commerce website that Associated Press reported processes payments from some marginal businesses, including porn sites, a phone-sex business and an offshore gambling company.

You proposed a new 23 percent sales tax. A tax on groceries, a tax on services, a tax on prescription drugs, a tax on houses." - Adam Putnam

Putnam repeated this claim made in his campaign commercials that DeSantis has supported a 23 percent sales tax on all purchases. When DeSantis confirmed he had supported the so-called Fair Tax, which would replace income and all other federal taxes with a sales tax. 

Putnam admitted the plan calls for the sales tax to replace the income tax, but pointed out the income tax is in the U.S. Constitution, implying there's no guarantee it would go away

One of the reasons our border isn’t secure is because people like Adam Putnam support cheap foreign labor." - Ron DeSantis

When Putnam was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2001 at the age of 26, he did co-sponsored and supported a bipartisan immigration effort that included a guest worker program. The bill, which included specific work requirements and a clean criminal record, would also have allowed guest workers to apply for citizenship after three years. 

The bill never passed.

It's not unusual for politicians to find areas of weaknesses in their opponents and their pasts and exploit them. So Wednesday night's debate was business as usual.

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