DeSantis Appoints Campaign Donors and Loyalists to Disney Oversight Board

(Photo by Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

By Giselle Balido

February 28, 2023

They include the co-founder of Moms for Liberty and major supporter of the “Don’t Say Gay” law, and a businessman who runs a ministry focused on “discipleship and outreach to men.”

After signing the state-run takeover of Walt Disney World’s Reedy Creek Improvement District into law on Monday, Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed five members to the newly reformatted version of the board, which has now been renamed Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. 

The special district previously granted Disney a wide range of freedom to self-govern. However, following a nearly yearlong political fight after the giant corporation refuted DeSantis’ “Don’t Say Gay” law, the governor called a special session in April 2022 to do away with the Reedy Creek Improvement District. The Florida GOP-dominated Legislature approved the governor’s bill during a special session earlier this month.

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“There is a new sheriff in town, and accountability will be the order of the day,” DeSantis announced at a press conference in the special district in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

Another Culture War

The Republican governor’s move comes after a long-running conflict with the entertainment giant over Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, which bans classroom discussion of issues relating to sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade. 

However, critics see this as another one of DeSantis’ “culture wars” waged by the governor to play to his conservative base. LGBTQ subjects, they point out, are not taught in Florida public schools, whose Department of Education is handled by the governor’s cabinet.

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DeSantis’ five appointees are all political donors and loyalists, and include three members from the Tampa Bay area and two from Orlando. The five appointees are:

  • Bridget Ziegler. The DeSantis-endorsed Sarasota County School Board member is the co-founder of Moms for Liberty, a group that helps train conservatives to run for school boards. Her husband is the recently elected chair of the Republican Party of Florida.
  • Martin Garcia. A Tampa attorney who runs an investment firm that donated $50,000 to a DeSantis-aligned political committee. He will serve as chairman of the board.
  • Brian Aungst Jr. The Pinellas County Republican attorney was previously appointed by the governor to the 6th circuit judicial nominating commission.
  • Mike Sasso. Over the years, DeSantis has appointed the Winter Park attorney to several boards.
  • Ron Peri. An Orlando-area businessman who runs The Gathering, a ministry focused on “discipleship and outreach to men.”

Eskamani Speaks Up

“It’s important to note that the bulk of today’s appointees are extreme and political donors,” said state Rep. Anna Eskamani, (D-Orlando), who has been a vocal opponent of the governor’s measure.

The new board members will have to be confirmed by the Florida Senate during the March legislative session.


  • Giselle Balido

    Giselle is Floricua's political correspondent. She writes about the economy, environmental and social justice, and all things Latino. A published author, Giselle was born in Havana and grew up in New Jersey and Miami. She is passionate about equality, books, and cats.



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