Saturday, April 29, 2023

What DeSantis Couldn't Say in Response to Disney's Lawsuit

Now that we've covered the lawsuit Disney filed against Ron DeSantis, it's worth taking a look at how the governor responded.  

First of all, he claimed that Disney is "upset because they're going to have to live by the same rules as everybody else." He went on to say that "they don't want to have to pay the same taxes as everybody else."

But the truth is that, if Disney were to be forced to pay the same taxes as everybody else, they'd be getting a pretty big break.
The board sets the district’s tax rate, which is currently three times higher than that paid by residents of Orange and Osceola counties. Disney pays more than $1.1 billion in state and local taxes, including more than $160 million in property tax, which is used to maintain a higher level of services and infrastructure than the counties provide.

The same thing is true of the governor's other point about Disney wanting to avoid oversight.

The RCID building codes (the “Epcot Codes”) meet or exceed all state & federal requirements. Same with their environmental standards etc.

DeSantis ended by saying that the law suit was "political" (whatever that means in the context of a dispute over free speech), and then implied that the company was judge-shopping for filing the suit in Tallahassee. 

The governor needed to make that final point because the judge that has been assigned to this case is Mark Walker - someone who has a pretty stellar record on upholding First Amendment rights. But it gets even worse. Walker is the judge that said this in a ruling against DeSantis's Stop WOKE Act:

Walker said Florida had become a place where the First Amendment allowed, rather than prevented, the state to limit speech. Or as he put it, "in the popular television series Stranger Things, the 'upside down' describes a parallel dimension containing a distorted version of our world. Recently, Florida has seemed like a First Amendment upside down."

While it's clear that DeSantis isn't the brightest bulb, he's probably at least smart enough to know that he's going to lose this one at the District Court. So he's planting the seeds for blaming that on the "woke judge" chosen by Disney.

The most important part of these remarks by DeSantis are what he DIDN'T say. For example, he didn't repeat any of these past statements:

  • “Disney and other woke corporations won’t get away with peddling their unchecked pressure campaigns any longer” and that he would “not allow a woke corporation based in California to run our state." 
  • “For whatever reason, Disney got on that bandwagon. They demagogued the bill. They lied about it. ... We signed the bill. And then, and incredibly, they say, ‘We are going to work to repeal Parents’ Rights in Florida.’ And I’m just thinking to myself, ‘You’re a corporation based in Burbank, California, and you’re going to marshal your economic might to attack the parents of my state?’ We view that as a provocation and we are going to fight back against that.” 
  • “We took action” after Disney made “the mistake” of opposing the legislation." 
  • "Leaders must stand up and fight back when big corporations make the mistake, as Disney did, of using their economic might to advance a political agenda. We are making Florida the state where the economy flourishes because we are the state where woke goes to die.”
As a reminder, here's a summary of what Disney's lawsuit is all about:
A targeted campaign of government retaliation—orchestrated at every step by Governor DeSantis as punishment for Disney’s protected speech—now threatens Disney’s business operations, jeopardizes its economic future in the region, and violates its constitutional rights.
The statements above are all things the governor said about the events in question BEFORE Disney filed this lawsuit. As I said yesterday, "Nothing makes Disney's case better than the governor's own words." It's obvious DeSantis knows that, so he can't say the quiet parts out loud anymore. 

This case is probably going to take years to wind its way through the courts. By filling it, Disney has managed to muzzle DeSantis's ability to make claims about punishing woke corporations. That's a win right there.

The real showdown will come if this case makes its way to the Supreme Court. One the one hand, you have six extremist judges who have pretty much gone all-in on the war against woke. But it wasn't that long ago that the Court decided that corporations had free speech rights when it comes to political contributions. What will this group of justices have to say about actual speech rights for corporations? We'll have to wait and see.  

But if Disney finally claims victory in this case, it will be a step towards putting a nail in the coffin of the National Conservatives. One of their main goals is use the government to punish institutions that fight back against their "culture wars." If the courts rule that that is a violation of the institution's right to free speech, the movement could be dead in the water. That is why this case is such a BFD!

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