A Florida Trump supporter who made national headlines for hosting a pro-Israel gala at Mar-a-Lago after the president’s divisive statements on the 2017 Charlottesville protests had over $10,000 in donations returned by the super PAC supporting gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis — the only funds the group has returned so far this year, public records show.
Steven Alembik, a conservative data expert and outspoken Israel supporter, had two payments totaling $11,000 returned on June 11. Alembik’s communications firm, SMA Communications, lists the DeSantis governor’s campaign as a client.
Elections experts tell the Forward it’s completely kosher for a PAC or candidate to hire someone who’s donated. The PAC’s expenditure report does not list either Alembik or his firm as a client.
“There’s no prohibition on it,” Florida-based lawyer and campaign finance expert Mark Herron told the Forward. “Why that little teeny tiny bit was returned I can’t even begin to speculate.”
The PAC, Friends of Ron DeSantis, has raked in more than $13 million this year, including from Jewish mega donors like Sheldon and Miriam Adelson.
Alembik has continued to be an outspoken DeSantis supporter, tweeting on August 30 in support of the candidate after he made controversial remarks warning voters not to “monkey this up” by supporting his Democratic rival, Andrew Gillum, who would be the state’s first African American governor if elected.
I banged a Monkey your honor & I am so so sorry https://t.co/2OknpoMtAL— Steven Alembik (@salembik) August 30, 2018
Alembik again made news back in March after he sued a Hong Kong-based CEO after he reneged on buying giant paintings of both the president and First Lady Melania Trump he auctioned for at the Mar-a-Lago charity event.
The CEO reportedly said he backed out after the charity failed to provide him with its federal tax ID.
Alembik told the Palm Beach Post at the time they had the proper records.
“The tax ID has been provided to him,” Alembik said. “He can come up with all the excuses he wants. At the end of the day, he’s going to pay. He’s going to court and he’s going to lose.”
Gillum has attracted his own share of mega donors. George Soros has given $1.2 million to his PAC. Some conservative commentators have already started to use the connection as a dog whistle, referring to the Democratic candidate as “Soros-backed.”
Alembik did not return an immediate request for comment. Friends for DeSantis also did not return a request.