Ron DeSantis knows he can’t beat Disney, so he’s going after the company’s employees instead.
The DeSantis-appointed board that oversees Disney World’s governing district submitted a complaint Monday to the state inspector general about employee perks. The board argued that employee benefits, including free season passes and discounts on Disney hotels, merchandise, and food, are unethical and cost Florida millions of dollars.
The board’s complaint is unlikely to stick. The discounts are simply employee benefits, a pretty standard policy for a lot of organizations, instead of a deliberate tax scam, Richard Foglesong, a Rollins College professor emeritus who wrote a history of Disney World’s self-governance, told Fortune.
Still, this new attack is an escalation in DeSantis’s bizarre, yearlong war with Disney World. When the company’s then chairman condemned DeSantis’s “Don’t Say Gay” law last year, DeSantis retaliated by stripping the park of its autonomous governing powers and installing a leadership board of allies.
Disney sued DeSantis in April, alleging that he and his administration carried out a “relentless campaign to weaponize government power” against the company’s free speech rights—and they have the receipts. Court documents cite extensively from DeSantis’s own memoir, as well as myriad quotes from DeSantis allies blatantly stating that the bill dissolving Disney’s autonomous district was in direct response to the company opposing the “Don’t Say Gay” law.
DeSantis tried to backtrack last week, telling CNBC that he and his administration have “basically moved on” from the legal fight with Disney. He also insisted that Disney is “going to lose that lawsuit,” so it should just drop it.
Disney, however, is refusing to budge. Not only has it not dropped its original lawsuit, but company attorneys filed counterclaims on Thursday against DeSantis’s handpicked board of supervisors. Disney is accusing the board of breach of contract, and is seeking damages and an order to force compliance over certain development contracts.