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Ron DeSantis has created a home owner insurance crisis in Florida, but now he is “praying” Hurricanes stay away as he takes campaign cash from insurance lobbyists who might be violating Florida law.

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It has been widely reported that Florida is facing a massive insurance crisis. The recent withdrawal of multiple Home owner insurance providers in the state of Florida is daunting, and with Hurricane season currently taking place, many Floridians are now wondering what that will look like for them if they find themselves facing a storm or other natural disaster.

And now, it has been discovered that David Altmaier, Florida’s former leading insurance regulator under DeSantis, has left his position to work for one of the largest lobbying firms in the state of Florida, after he played a leading role in shaping a pro-insurance industry bill that was signed into law by Governor DeSantis, despite being harmful to Florida homeowners.

Early into the second week of July, Florida residents lost yet two more home insurance providers. Farmers Homeowners insurance fled the state, abandoning close to 100,000 Floridians who held home and auto policies with the company. Farmers said they decided to no longer offer coverage in Florida, ending home, auto and others policies in the state in a move that affects tens of thousands of residents. Their reasoning in doing so was due to high catastrophe costs and rising reconstruction expenses, which paints a grim picture of the insurance landscape in the state. By pulling out of Florida, Farmers became the fourth major insurer to pull out of Florida over the last year.

In a statement, Farmers insurance spokesman Trevor Chapman said,

“We have advised the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation of our decision to discontinue offering Farmers-branded auto, home and umbrella policies in the state. This business decision was necessary to effectively manage risk exposure.”

Directly after Farmers Insurance fled the state, AAA insurance announced that they will be decreasing policies throughout Florida, leaving thousands more Floridians without coverage in the middle of Florida’s tropical storm and Hurricane season.

In a statement to CBS News, AAA insurance said,

“Unfortunately, Florida’s insurance market has become challenging in recent years. Last year’s catastrophic hurricane season contributed to an unprecedented rise in reinsurance rates, making it more costly for insurance companies to operate.”

Florida residents are already struggling with a myriad of economic issues because of run-away inflation and some of the highest utility rates in the nation, with Florida taking the prize for being that state with the highest inflation rates in the country. Additionally, the cost of rent has skyrocketed throughout Florida as landlords have had to increase monthly rentals in order to cover the drastic increase in property insurance and utility hikes, which has in turn created an affordable housing crisis in Florida, and is likely to cause a future housing market crash as well.

And now, in the middle of hurricane season, the looming home insurance crisis has taken center stage in the minds of Florida homeowners, and it is now a point of debate within the current GOP Presidential Primary, with President Trump recently calling on DeSantis to go back home to Florida and do his job to address the insurance crisis in Florida.  

As insurance premiums continue to rise, the lives and financial well-being of the shrinking middle class will pay the price. However, despite this crisis which could very well cause the Florida housing market to crash given the growing insolvency of multiple insurance carriers in Florida, instead of addressing this escalating crisis, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has chosen to divert valuable time and resources towards his 2024 presidential campaign, which is doomed to fail and will ultimately collapse on itself like a leaky Florida roof. There is no denying that Governor DeSantis is now an absentee Governor.

In a December 2022 bill signing of legislation that was generated from a special session in the Florida legislature, which gutted the ability of litigants’ to collect legal fees from insurance providers that refuse to pay out insurance claims, DeSantis stated,

“The issues in Florida’s property insurance market did not occur overnight, and they will not be solved overnight”. 

Senate Bill 2A was claimed by lawmakers to be an “overhaul” of the state’s Insurance Statutes to combat the current insurance crisis that was created by a group of corrupt Florida officials, including Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis and now Former Florida Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier, allowing insurance companies that were supposed to be regulated by the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) to get a pass. A recently released report from FIGA proves this.

For the insurance companies still servicing policies in Florida, insurance premiums have continued to tick upward, with the average Florida annual home owner insurance premium reaching well over $6,000. For context, the national average is $1,700.

When Ron DeSantis was sworn into office as Governor of Florida in January 2019, Floridians paid an average premium of $1,988, which means insurance premiums has tripled since he assumed office. In 2023, Florida’s average homeowner insurance premium has increased 40% this year alone, which is four times the national increase. This is an unsustainable rate, and it has made homeownership and even home rentals completely unaffordable for Floridians, especially the many seniors who have flocked to Florida for retirement, only to discover they can’t afford to live in Florida anymore on their fixed incomes. The rising cost of premiums has forced thousands of Floridians out of their homes due to surprise increases that the average person who is living paycheck to paycheck cannot afford.

The constant pattern of staggering premium hikes or policy terminations is giving homeowners heartburn. There is no denying that the middle and lower classes, in particular will bear the brunt of this crisis in Florida, with their hard-earned incomes and little to no disposable income being drained to cover the costs of home repairs, or losing their homes all together via mass foreclosures due to unaffordable premiums, along with insurance carriers being delinquent on paying out claims.

The reaction from the Florida state government to this crisis has not been encouraging. Jimmy Patronis, Florida’s CFO, has responded to Farmers’ withdrawal by threatening to weaponize the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR), (weaponized government is a tactic of the Democrats which is now being utilized by DeSantis’s administration) against the private insurance company, which only serves to make other insurance carriers less likely to want to do business in Florida, where private insurance carriers are being threatened with retaliation by Florida state officials like Patronis. Farmers is a private market insurance carrier, but that doesn’t seem to matter to the Governor and his cohorts. The message has been made clear to the insurance market in Florida: do exactly what we want, or you will pay a price. The consequences of such aggressive scare tactics is likely to cause even more insurance carriers to choose to leave Florida. 

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR FLORIDIANS?

Governor DeSantis has been entrusted with protecting the well-being and interests of Florida’s residents, which is what he took an oath to do when he was re-elected for a second term as Governor. Yet, as each day passes, it’s become more evident that DeSantis never had any intention of fully serving out his full second term as Governor of Florida, as he is now spending more time out of state than within, campaigning for President as an absentee Governor.

During hurricane season, it is imperative that DeSantis return his focus towards the interests of Floridians, his actual constituents. But, will he do the right thing?

Given his recent statements, it’s highly unlikely.Hurricane season has already began in Florida, and DeSantis is an absentee Governor who has failed to present any real solutions for the insurance crisis as he jet sets on private jets across the country living his Presidential fantasy.

When Governor DeSantis was recently asked about his plans to address the upcoming Hurricane Season and Florida insurance crisis, he flippantly said we just have to pray there isn’t a hurricane, and hope that insurance carriers return to Florida next year.

“So, knock on wood, we won’t have a big storm this summer. Then I think you’re going to start to see companies see an advantage,” DeSantis added.

DeSantis is not only Sanctimonious in his belief that he can beat Donald Trump in a GOP primary, but instead of actually addressing corruption in Florida’s insurance market, he has made it a habit of saying we just have to “pray” and hope that Hurricanes don’t hit Florida. While speaking in Israel earlier this year, DeSantis told the crowd that he single handedly stopped Hurricane Dorian from hitting Florida because he prayed at the Western Wall in Israel.

However, DeSantis’s claims were false, because Hurricane Dorian did hit Florida, killing six Floridians.

During the last legislative session, many observed that DeSantis’s attention was focused on collecting as many brownie points as possible from lobbyists, members of the Florida legislature, and the Trump base in an effort to lay the groundwork for his 2024 Presidential campaign and utilize the war chest of over $200 million that he raised prior to November 2022 in an effort to secure re-election. Ultimately, his political ambition prevented him from making better decisions for Floridians, whom he has now completely abandoned after promising them another term as their Governor, and then immediately neglecting them upon securing re-election.

Along with abandoning Florida to run for President, Ron DeSantis has another reason why he is ignoring the escalating insurance crisis in Florida, and that is the fact that he, along with Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis and several key members of the Florida Republican legislature have received millions of dollars in campaign donations from insurance companies and their lobbyists. In exchange for these donations, DeSantis allowed for the insurance companies to play a role in writing the new insurance legislation that came out of the 2022 Special session.

While digging into Ron DeSantis’s most recent campaign finance report for his Presidential campaign, a familiar name popped up. David Altmaier, now a Tallahassee lobbyist and DeSantis for President campaign donor, was once the top insurance official in the state of Florida when he served as the Florida Commissioner of Insurance Regulation from May 2, 2016 until December 28, 2022.

According to DeSantis’s first FEC report since filing to run for President, he received a campaign contribution in the amount of $1,000 from Altmaier on May 25,2023, just one day after DeSantis officially filed to run for President.

As the State of Florida’s top insurance regulator under CFO Jimmy Patronis, Former Florida Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier oversaw the OIR, which manages the State of Florida’s insurer of last resort, Citizens property insurance, industry rate filings, and is also supposed to manage investigations into insurance companies, their conduct, and ultimately has the power to declare insurers insolvent.

Like Gillway and Patronis, Commissioner David Altmaier was heavily involved in the passage of Florida Senate Bill 2A. However, after it passed the Florida Legislature, and just 12 days after Governor DeSantis signed it into law on December 16, 2023, the now Former Florida Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier submitted his resignation to Governor DeSantis, and it was made effective on December 28, 2022.

In March of 2023, it was reported that Former Florida Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier, was hired as a lobbyist by one of the largest and most influential lobbying firms in the state, The Southern Group.

Coincidentally, Altmaier filed his resignation from the OIR directly to Governor DeSantis just four days before a Florida law banning officials from lobbying for six years was supposed to take effect on January 1, 2023. At this time, prior to the changes to the law, a two year ban on lobbying was already in place for both elected and appointed officials who decided to leave for the private sector.

While there have been legal challenges posed to the six year lobbying ban in Florida, which was signed into law by Governor DeSantis on May 26, 2022, the two year lobby ban in Florida , which is often referred to as the “Revolving Door Law”, is still in effect, which means Altmaier may be in violation of Florida law that DeSantis himself signed into effect while Altmaier was still working as an agency head in DeSantis’s cabinet as the agency head of Florida’s Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR). HB 7001, the law that DeSantis signed, applies to the leaders of state agencies under DeSantis or his Cabinet.

As the Florida Insurance Commissioner under DeSantis’s term as Governor, Altmaier was a member of Governor DeSantis’s cabinet. Not only was he a cabinet member, but he was a favored member.

As Governor, and while Altmaier serves as the Insurance Commissioner at OIR, Commissioner Altmaier was appointed by Governor Ron DeSantis to serve as a member of Florida’s Blockchain Task Force. Additionally, during the COVID-19 pandemic, he was selected as a member of the Governor’s Re-Open Florida Task Force Industry Working Group on Agriculture, Finance, Government, Healthcare, Management and Professional Services.

These are all positions that were considered to be plum positions in Florida.

This is further evidence of how Ron DeSantis has made a career out of saying one thing to gain public support, as he bends the rules and does the exact opposite of his public statements if it means that he himself will benefit financially. His lack of integrity is concerning given that he has demonstrated in the case of Altmaier that he is willing to allow him to bend Florida’s two year ban on lobbying since Altmaier has contributed to DeSantis’s 2024 Presidential campaign.

It is worth noting that Altmaier left his position as Florida’s Commissioner of Insurance Regulation nearly one month after DeSantis secured re-election as Governor in Florida. Since joining The Southern Group, Altmaier has been tasked with leading a new national insurance advisory practice to serve clients in both Florida and nationwide.

DeSantis has been relatively quiet in public regarding the corruption and malfeasance involved in the Florida insurance industry, especially given the fact that he has abandoned Floridians who are still struggling to recover and get their claims paid following Hurricane Ian in 2022, which devastated thousands of Floridians in Southwest Florida when it landed as a Category 4 monster storm.

However, a May 2023 report from The Intercept shows that behind the scenes, Ron DeSantis has raked in nearly $4 Million dollars in contributions from the insurance industry to both his official campaign, and the now shuttered Friends of Ron DeSantis PAC, which deceptively changed its name to the Empower Parents PAC in May 2023 before DeSantis filed to run for President, and transferred the $82.5 million of leftover campaign donations from his Gubernatorial state committee to the anti-Trump, pro-DeSantis Never Back Down Super PAC. Following the transfer of funds, which included funds from insurance companies, their executives, and their family members, DeSantis immediately shuddered the Empower Parents PAC.

Making matters worse, according to Florida insurance industry whistleblower Scott Thomas, who has exclusively provided me with a copy of a letter he sent Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody on March 15, 2023, just one day after The Southern Group announced they had hired Altmaier to join their lobbying firm, Thomas notified Moody that Altmaier appeared to possibly be in violation of Florida’s law banning employment as a lobbyist for 24 months after leaving state positions, but Moody never replied and she failed to take action.

This speaks volumes, as it reveals DeSantis is not only willing to sell out Floridians to the insurance industry, but he is also willing to do the same as a Presidential candidate, further proving that he does not have the best interest of the American people in mind when it comes to affordable homeownership and ethical insurance practices.

Thomas is a Marine Corps veteran who served in the Persian Gulf, and has 25 years of experience working as a claims professional in Florida for both insurance companies and consumers.

Thomas requested whistleblower protection in September 2019. In an email dated October 8, 2019, the Florida Department of Financial Services replied to Thomas’s email notifying him that his request for Whistle blower status was being forwarded to the Office of Insurance regulation, which was overseen at the time by David Altmaier. However, despite receiving this letter, Thomas was never granted whistleblower protection, and he was targeted by DeSantis’s administration in the time leading up to the 2022 election in which DeSantis was running for re-election.

Since 2019, Mr. Thomas has attempted to come forward and speak out against the alleged corruption within the OIR, DFS, Citizens Property Insurance, and he has also reported former Citizens Insurance CEO Barry Gillway, FL CFO Jimmy Patronis and Former Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier to various state and federal agencies, including the Florida Attorney General’s office, as is seen in the documentation above that was provided to me by Thomas exclusively. That said, in March of 2022, Jimmy Patronis, who oversee’s Florida’s Department of Financial Services (DFS) attempted to silence Mr. Thomas by lodging an Administrative Action against him prior to the 2022 Election in order to silence Mr. Thomas. Patronis’s acts of retaliation against Mr. Thomas came after Thomas attempted to secure whistleblower protection from the OIR & FDLE on numerous occasions, only to be ignored.

After being refused whistleblower protection, Mr. Thomas was originally charged on March 2, 2022 with violations of administrative code by the DFS, and he was threatened by agents of DFS that if he kept speaking out against Governor Ron DeSantis and Jimmy Patronis (who were both seeking reelection at the time), more charges would be added and he would be stripped of his Florida 320 Public Adjusters license, which is what he needs in order to have a profession as public adjuster in the state of Florida.

When Mr. Thomas continued to exercise his First Amendment right to speak out for the consumer in an effort to expose the looming Florida insurance crisis, Governor DeSantis and Jimmy Patronis via DFS attorneys made good on their threat and not only added more charges against Mr. Thomas, but additionally, Mr. Thomas’s case was transferred to another administrative Law Judge who not only failed to disclose his conflicts with Citizens Property Insurance, but also his conflict with his former boss, Division of Administrative hearings (DOAH) administrative law Judge John MacIver. When Maclver left DOAH, he became general council for Jimmy Patronis’s DFS. Patronis has oversight over the administrative courts in Florida.

It should be noted that Mr. Thomas has filed an appeal with the 4th District Court of Appeals in Florida, and he has also filed a Declaratory Action against the DFS.

As suspect as Altmaier’s donation to DeSantis’s Presidential campaign may seem, it wasn’t the only donation made on that particular day by a lobbyist from Tallahassee lobbying firm, The Southern Group. 

FEC reports reveal that on May 25, 2023, the same day Altmaier made his contribution, Paul Bradshaw, another lobbyist and Chairman of The Southern Group contributed $1,000 to DeSantis’s Presidential campaign.

As has been said, “there are no conspiracies in politics, but there are no coincidences either”. 

Along with working together at The Southern Group, Bradshaw and Altmaier also share a connection to the insurance industry.  Bradshaw was previously registered as lobbyist in the state of Florida for Property Casualty Insurers Association of America. 

As recently as 2022,  Paul Bradshaw was registered as a lobbyist for the Executive branch in the state of Florida.  Among the clients he lobbied for was Disney, Florida Blue, and Tampa Electric company, further showing how lobbyists are playing a direct role in the insurance and utility markets in Florida.  Being registered as a lobbyist for the Executive branch of Florida representing Disney means that Bradshaw lobbied Governor DeSantis directly on behalf of Disney.  Why would a lobbyist for Disney personally support the campaign of a candidate for President who has publicly claimed, as Governor of Florida, that he is on a crusade to destroy Bradshaw’s client, and therefore his own livelihood, which would negatively impact business for The Southern Group?

These are merely two more examples of hypocrisy and conflicts between DeSantis’s public policy positions as both Governor of Florida, and as a current Presidential candidate that can be found in Ron DeSantis’s FEC report as it pertains to contributions he received, especially with regards to lobbyists. While Ron DeSantis has been on a public crusade against Disney in an effort to deceptively and fraudulently present himself as the “anti-woke” “culture warrior” candidate, he has quietly and simultaneously been receiving campaign funds from the same lobbyists who have worked against him on behalf of Disney. 

Instead of taking responsibility for selling Florida homeowners out to lobbyists, people like Altmaier, Patronis, and DeSantis fabricated a bogyman and pointed the finger at plaintiff attorneys, roofers, and Public Adjusters with help from former Citizens Insurance CEO Barry Gillway who never publicly disclosed his lobbying activities while he was helping DeSantis write the 2022 insurance bill during the Florida legilslature’s special session.

Under Ron DeSantis’s watch, Patronis, Gillway and Altmaier went on a media blitz attempting to secure public support for the insurance bill, known as Florida Senate Bill 2A by using scare tactics and out right deception, even going as far as having CFO Jimmy Patronis (in October 2022 just before the November 2022 election) go on live national television from Cape Coral, FL for an interview in which he stated that Public Adjusters are “locusts and predators”. Months later, during a March 21, 2023 Florida House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee hearing in Tallahassee, CFO Patronis admitted that he himself used a Public Adjuster when his family restaurant secured a Public Adjuster after Hurricane Micheal.

Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis Calls Public Adjusters “Locusts and Predators”

In Tallahassee, and on Ron DeSantis’s presidential campaign, it’s “do as I say, not as I do”.

I reached out the The Southern Group and former Florida Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier and asked him how he reconciles his new job as a lobbyist with The South Group given that Florida has a two year ban on lobbying for heads of state agencies once the leave office. Altmaier said he didn’t have time to talk, adding,

“Suggesting that I’m in violation of Florida lobbying laws is false.”

Given that HB 7001 applies to the leaders of state agencies under DeSantis or his Cabinet, which Altmaier was a member of until he resigned following submission of his resignation letter to DeSantis on December 28, 2022 , the Florida law that prohibits lobbying for two years after officials leave their state agency positions also applies to Altmaier. However, given that it is ultimately the Governor of Florida who decides the penalty for possible violations of the law, and given the fact that Altmaier and numerous of his colleagues at The Southern Group have donated thousands of dollars to DeSantis’s presidential campaign, Floridians shouldn’t hold their breath waiting for any accountability anytime soon.

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