This afternoon The Walt Disney Company filed a lawsuit suing Gov. Ron DeSantis and state officials in federal court, accusing them of engaging in a “targeted campaign of government retaliation” in the feud over the Reedy Creek Improvement District. The entertainment giant filed a constitutional challenge that may go all the way to the Supreme Court over the power and limits of a Florida Governor and Prospective use of that power to propel them for political gain to become President of the United States. Meanwhile DeSantis' hand-picked tourism oversight board yesterday declared Disney's agreements seeking to retain control over development in Central Florida were null and void because the previous Disney-friendly Reedy Creek Improvement District board failed to follow procedural requirements and properly notify affected property owners of the development agreements.
The state legislature is expected to pass a law that allows the tourism board to declare all former agreements null and void. Disney said in the suit that “A targeted campaign of government retaliation — orchestrated at every step by Gov. 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.” In the federal lawsuit, Disney's lawyers say the agreements were lawfully approved, and DeSantis and his allies are “employing the machinery of the state in a coordinated campaign to damage Disney's ability to do business in Florida because it opposed what critics called the “don't say gay” law.” A DeSantis spokeswoman, Taryn Fenske said this afternoon on the lawsuit “We are unaware of any legal right that a company has to operate its own government or maintain special privileges not held by other businesses in the state. This lawsuit is yet another unfortunate example of their hope to undermine the will of the Florida voters and operate outside the bounds of the law.”
Disney has set up a constitutional free speech challenge in the lawsuit by saying “There is no room for disagreement about what happened here: Disney expressed its opinion on state legislation and was then punished by the state for doing so.” Disney filed the lawsuit against DeSantis, the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District's Board of Supervisors and other state officials. The suit asks the court to block the oversight board's actions voiding the development agreements and a state law putting DeSantis in charge of the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which oversees government services for Disney World. It alleges the state violated Disney's First Amendment rights and clauses dealing with contracts, due process and the taking of private property without just compensation. Disney said it wanted to avoid fighting with Florida's government but had no choice because of “a relentless campaign to weaponize government power.” The lawsuit drew swift reactions from politicians and Disney analysts. Renowned Disney analyst Len Testa called Disney's decision to sue DeSantis and the state a significant escalation over matters the corporation must think are vital to its business interests. He said “This is huge. This is not your typical dispute with the local taxing authority or the City Council of Anaheim. Suing a governor in federal court is unprecedented.” Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a GOP presidential contender, told Fox News she would welcome Disney's “hundreds of thousands of jobs” and “billions of dollars” into her state.