Politics & Media
Apr 04, 2023, 05:55AM

Florida Wages Mauskampf, Finds Maus Has Good Lawyers

Strange victory for gay agenda.

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Ron Peri can be surprisingly agnostic about some points, such as the water supply and whether it makes people gay. “You know, there’s estrogen in the water from birth control pills. They can’t get it out,” the chairman of the Gathering (“a ministry of discipleship and outreach to men”) commented last year. “The level of testosterone in men broadly, in America, has declined by 50 points in the past 10 years. You know, and so, maybe that’s a part of it.” But Peri’s sure about one thing. The districthe’s supposed to be running, the district that contains Walt Disney World and whose government officially decides what can be built within its limits, is now a district without much real power. “The board loses, for practical purposes, the majority of its ability to do anything beyond maintain the roads and maintain basic infrastructure,” he told reporters a few days ago.

The state of Florida thought it found a chokehold on a troublesome private entity, namely the Walt Disney Co. Instead Disney demonstrated once again that it hires some remarkably smart lawyers. Gov. Ron DeSantis wanted to punish the company’s pro-gay sentiments by putting his people in charge of Disney’s crucial little municipality. Instead he’s been outslicked by that slickest of entities, corporate America.

America has its fiefdoms, and for more than half a century the district around Walt Disney World was one such creature. Compliant state legislators created the Reedy Creek Improvement District at Disney’s request, with the company as chief landowner, chief taxpayer, and chief voter within the district limits. In effect Disney owned a municipal government to go with its central Florida land holdings, and this mini-government bent itself to the development of these holdings as the corporation saw fit. Disney World was the eventual result, and Florida let the situation continue unchanged until Gov. DeSantis had a point to make about gayness and children.

Last year DeSantis outlawed teaching public school kids about gayness until fourth grade (a ban that DeSantis appointees now plan to extend through 12th grade). Disney condemned the move, and DeSantis then launched der Mauskampf. Craftily he had the state legislature rejigger the laws so that he could appoint the people running the district. It now has the de-Disneyfied name of Central Florida Tourism Oversight District and boasts a board on which Ron Peri, the man with thoughts about queer water, sits with four other DeSantis appointees and nobody else. Because Disney backed the wrong thoughts regarding gayness, thoughts that went against the state’s agenda, Disney World’s building needs are officially under the thumb of the queer-water man and his colleagues.

Anything to make those five clowns into figureheads counts as a blow for freedom. This particular victory was wrested on freedom’s behalf by unlimited legal corporate staffing, and by wrested I mean weaseled. Even so, we should be relieved at the latest turn in the Battle of Reedy Creek. The state, otherwise known as the government of Florida, was going to bring this corporate wrong thinker to heel; it was going to knock down this rival authority; it was going to nail the Governor a high-profilescalp in the culture wars, with the gayness of Disney product being a kampf talking point. Yet the state did none of these things. Instead it broke a tooth on the Reedy Creek… no, the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District.

The Governor’s first plan had been for lawmakers to abolish the district outright. But the place had more than a billion in debt, all legally signed for in bond contracts; the state decided to keep the district around so it could continue to pay off the creditors. Letting the Governor kick out Disney’s puppet board and install his selection of GOP hacks and religious zealots would be enough of a win. This was accomplished in February and DeSantis announced his victory. Telling the press about the new team, the Governor hinted that his people might be reasoning with Disney about the company’s cultural output, reasoning with them good and hard. “When you lose your way, you’ve got to have people that are going to tell you the truth, and so we hope they can get back on,” DeSantis said. “But I think all these board members would very much like to see type of entertainment that all families can appreciate.”

For its part, Disney said it was “focused on the future” and “ready to work within this new framework.” That sounded meek; it came to sound double-edged. The day before the Florida House had voted to let the Governor appoint the district board, Disney’s old pocket board signed over most of the powers involved in running the place. The Governor’s law passed and the Governor now decides who sits on the board, but the board gives orders to no one much. Disney, co-signatory to the agreements, runs things instead. The district’s still bound by its agreements, even with a new board in place. That goes for bond contracts and for the Disney pacts.

DeSantis says he worked hard for the “element of surprise” in the Mauskampf. But his side never saw the switcheroo coming. “I cannot tell you the level of my disappointment in Disney,” said a flabbergasted Ron Peri, the queer-water man. “I thought so much better of them.” The gang missed it even though Disney’s pocket board followed the rules for public disclosure, posting notices in the Orlando Sentinel and approving the agreements at public meetings. “If you’re in Tallahassee, and you’re replacing the board, how do you not know what that board is doing in their public meetings?” a former state legislator asked The Wall Street Journal. “This was negligence on the part of the governor’s office and Republican legislators.”

The new board’s hiring four law firms to tackle the matter; the new chairman, Martin Garcia (“a Tampa lawyer whose private investment firm contributed $50,000 to the governor's 2022 reelection campaign,” CNN tells us), says they want “lawyers that have extensive experience in dealing with protracted litigation against Fortune 500 companies.” A little while ago der Mauskampf looked like an exercise in state power used as cudgel. Now it’s more of a contest in staffing up for the courtroom. A couple of weeks ago Ron DeSantis looked clever; now he looks like somebody who wants to be clever. Advantage: der Maus, not der kampf.


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