Fact-Checking Haley and DeSantis in Their Race to Rival Trump


“DeSantis gave millions to Chinese companies. DeSantis even voted to fast-track Obama’s Chinese trade deals.”
— A pro-Haley super PAC, SFA Fund Inc., in an ad

False. There is no evidence Mr. DeSantis directly gave “millions” to Chinese companies; the ad was referring to technology purchases by state agencies. And the trade-related vote in question, when Mr. DeSantis was in Congress, did not result in the Obama administration signing trade deals with China.

In regards to the claim that Mr. DeSantis gave millions to Chinese companies, a representative for the super PAC cited a 2020 article in The Washington Times, a conservative publication. The article concerned a report that asserted that state governments around the country were introducing security threats because of technology contracts with two companies: Lexmark, which was acquired by a Chinese consortium in 2016, and Lenovo, a Chinese tech company. Both companies disputed the report in statements to the news outlet.

Florida records do show state agencies have spent millions in purchases from the companies, mostly Lexmark, for printers and other products, since Mr. DeSantis took office on Jan. 8, 2019. South Carolina has also worked with the companies, including under Ms. Haley’s governorship.

Florida used those companies before Mr. DeSantis’s tenure, too, and SFA Fund provided no evidence that Mr. DeSantis himself directly approved the purchases. Last year, Mr. DeSantis issued an executive order instructing state officials to create rules to prevent state entities from buying technology that presents security risks, including because of a connection to China or other “foreign countries of concern.”

The ad’s contention that Mr. DeSantis “voted to fast-track Obama’s Chinese trade deals” is similarly flawed. It is based on a vote Mr. DeSantis made as a congressman in 2015 to extend the president’s authority to fast-track trade legislation. He was among 190 Republicans in the House to vote for it.

But Mark Wu, a Harvard law professor with expertise in international trade, said no trade agreements subject to that authority were made with China.

“In passing T.P.A. in 2015, Congress agreed only to fast-track trade agreements that addressed tariff barriers (along with possibly nontariff barriers),” Mr. Wu said in an email, referring to the trade promotion authority bill that bolstered the president’s power to negotiate trade deals with Asia and Europe. “None of the negotiations that the U.S. conducted with China during the Obama administration fell into this category. Nor did these negotiations result in any trade deals with China during the Obama administration.”


“Ron, you are the chair of your economic development agency that, as of last week, said Florida is the ideal place for Chinese businesses. Not only that, you have a company that is manufacturer of Chinese military planes. You have it. They are expanding two training sites at two of your airports now, one which is 12 miles away from a naval base. Then you have another company that’s expanding, and they were just invaded by the Department of Homeland Security.”
— Ms. Haley during the debate last week

This requires context. Mr. DeSantis previously served as the board chairman of a public-private economic development organization known as Enterprise Florida. The governor signed legislation earlier this year that consolidated the organization’s work into what is now the state’s Commerce Department.

Ms. Haley was referring to an old report. A 2019-2020 report by Enterprise Florida described Florida as “an ideal business destination for Chinese companies.” Ms. Haley’s campaign has hit Mr. DeSantis over reports that the document was taken down this month.

Ms. Haley’s other points largely check out.

In October last year, Cirrus Aircraft — which was acquired in 2011 by a Chinese state-owned company that makes military aircraft — announced it had expanded locations at the Orlando Executive Airport and Kissimmee Gateway Airport. The first location provides aircraft sales and concierge flight training, while the other offers aircraft maintenance and management. The Orlando complex is less than 10 miles from a Navy training systems center.

Regarding the company raided by the Homeland Security Department, Ms. Haley was referring to a solar panel company, JinkoSolar, based in China. Homeland security officials in May executed search warrants at its factory in Jacksonville, Fla., and an office in California.

While federal officials have not provided details on that inquiry, it appears to be linked to multiple concerns. Those include whether JinkoSolar misrepresented the source of some imports containing materials from the Xinjiang region of China and incorrectly classified products, resulting in an incorrect duty rate, The New York Times has reported. The company has said that it is confident in its supply chain traceability and that U.S. customs officials have reviewed and released JinkoSolar products.

In June, Jacksonville’s City Council withdrew a bill that would have provided the company tax incentives to expand. A JinkoSolar representative said in a statement that the company still planned to pursue its $50 million expansion.


“Nikki Haley promised South Carolina she would never support increasing taxes on gas. She broke that promise almost immediately.”
— A pro-DeSantis super PAC, Never Back Down, in a post on X last week

This is misleading. As governor, Ms. Haley rebuffed calls to increase South Carolina’s gas tax as a stand-alone measure.

The ad included in the post features clips taken from Ms. Haley’s State of the State addresses. First she is shown saying, in 2013, “But I will not, not now, not ever, support raising the gas tax.” She is then shown in 2015 saying, “Let’s increase the gas tax by 10 cents over the next three years.”

But Ms. Haley’s full 2015 remarks shows that the super PAC took her comments out of context. She first acknowledged that “some have advocated raising the state gas tax” to increase revenue for infrastructure projects and later said: “As I’ve said many times, I will veto any straight-up increase in the gas tax.”

Instead, Ms. Haley said she would only support a gas tax increase if the state reduced the income tax rate to 5 percent, from 7 percent, and made changes to the state’s Department of Transportation.

The state did not ultimately increase the gas tax under Ms. Haley.

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