Moms for Liberty boss Descovich loses confirmation fight for ethics post in Florida Senate

ethics commissioner
Florida ethics commissioner Tina Descovich appearing before the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee on Feb. 26. Photo: The Florida Channel

By Dan Christensen,

Florida ethics commissioner Tina Descovich, better known for her role as the co-founder of the controversial Moms for Liberty, was not confirmed today after her recommendation was yanked by the Senate president before it could be voted on by the full Senate.

The rejection is the first time in Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’s more than five years in office that one of his ethics appointees was not confirmed. In fact, he’s rarely had any of his appointees fail to win confirmation in the heavily Republican Senate.

The decision to ignore a Feb. 26 recommendation for confirmation by the Senate Committee on Ethics and Elections Committee followed a March 4 report in Florida Bulldog detailing an ethics complaint that was filed against Commissioner Descovich by Melbourne resident Robert Burns. The vote was 6-3 with chairman Danny Burgess, R-Tampa and five other Republicans voted to confirm. All three Democratic members were opposed.

State Rep. Tina Scott Polsky, D-Boca Raton

Leading the opposition was Sen. Tina Scott Polsky, D-Boca Raton. After Thursday morning’s vote she told Florida Bulldog, “The decision was ultimately done by the President [Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Fort Myers] There was a concern raised that her employment could constitute lobbying the Legislature after an ethics complaint was filed.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights advocate, has labeled Moms for Liberty a far-right, anti-government organization with “close political alliances and ties to extremist groups to broaden its reach and spread its messages of anti-inclusion and hate.”

Burns operates The Space Coast Rocket news site. He’s also worked as a political consultant who has managed campaigns for both Republicans and Democrats.

His 15-page complaint spelled out a number of allegations that it contends are disqualifying, including the assertion that Descovich, a resident of Indiatlantic, is a paid lobbyist. The Commission on Ethics’s rules prohibit its members from lobbying state and local governments.


Descovich, who is paid a salary of $50,000 plus $6,000 in benefits by Moms for Liberty, isn’t a registered lobbyist in Tallahassee, or apparently anywhere else. She has, however, been an outspoken advocate pushing a variety of conservative public policy and education positions including so called “woke” issues with Gov. DeSantis and legislators.

Robert Burns

DeSantis appointed Descovich last September to replace Glenton “Glen” Gilzean, who quit after Florida Bulldog reported on his significant conflict of interest. While serving as ethics commission chair Gilzean took a $400,000-a-year job as administrator of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, formerly known as the Walt Disney Company controlled Reedy Creek Improvement District.

By accepting the job, Gilzean violated the ethics commission’s most fundamental rule: that commissioners cannot be state employees. The reason: the commission’s constitutionally mandated job is to oversee the conduct of state officers and employees.

Gilzean quit a week after the Bulldog’s story was published.

Burns issued a statement today after it became apparent that Descovich’s confirmation was dead.

“In the span of less than a year, the governor’s appointments to the Ethics Commission have starkly contravened the commission’s two cardinal prohibitions. First, the chair was compelled to resign for holding public office, and now, the chair’s successor faces allegations of lobbying,” he wrote.

“These appointments, ostensibly entrusted with safeguarding ethical standards, have instead embodied the very breaches they are meant to avert, casting a long shadow over the integrity of the commission and, by extension, the discernment of the governor’s selections. In Florida, it appears, special interests trump conflicts of interest,” Burns said.

What happens next is up to DeSantis. Will he defy the Senate’s defiance and reappoint Descovich?

Here’s what the law, Florida statute 114.05, has to say when the Senate votes to take no action, or fails to consider an appointment. “A vacancy in office shall exist upon the adjournment sine die of the Legislature. The appointee shall hold over until his or her successor is appointed and qualified; however, such holding over shall not exceed 45 days. The appointee may be reappointed.”

“The governor will reappoint Tina Descovich as soon as she is eligible for reappointment if she is not confirmed by the Senate,” said the governor’s deputy press secretary Julia Friedland.

[This is a developing story. Check back for updates.]

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Latest comments

  • Could this be a sign that desantis is losing his pull? Hes trying to again load up the ethics commission so they continue to do his bidding like protecting Greg Toney. Desantis is a straight-up azzclown and has shown a penchant for putting some pretty slimy people in positions that they are not qualified for.

  • The fact of DeSantis’s “ethics incompetence” isn’t news. The outrage is his nerve in persisting with attempts to corrupt the Florida Ethics Commission by appointing members whose own history of ethical incompetence is fixed in place and obvious before he ever nominated them. Ethics literacy should be a paramount qualification for an elected and appointed state official in this country before he or she ever takes office, but that idea is anathema to Florida GOP after years of GOP one party rule.

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