EXPLAINER: The link between Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Regeneron

Coronavirus

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — This week, dozens of users on social media and several media outlets drew attention to the link between Gov. Ron DeSantis’ support for COVID-19 treatments from the company Regeneron and his top donor’s financial interest in the company.

8 On Your Side looked into the issue to determine whether the facts supported any reason for ethics concerns.

The top donor to the Friends of Ron DeSantis political action committee is Ken Griffin, CEO of the hedge fund Citadel Advisors LLC. Since his run for governor in 2018, Griffin has donated $10.75 million to the PAC, including a $5 million donation in April.

Citadel nearly tripled its stock holding in Regeneron in the second quarter of this year, according to filings from NASDAQ and the SEC.

But the hedge fund is not in the top 100 institutional holders of Regeneron stock, and it makes up less than 0.1% of Citadel’s portfolio as of the end of Q2. Citadel also has a large options position in Regeneron, but it owns more puts than calls, a possible indication the firm is more bearish about the company than bullish.

8 On Your Side also checked the governor’s latest financial disclosure, but it does not list any specific stock investments.

Both the governor’s public calendar and a Regeneron spokesperson confirmed that Gov. DeSantis did have a call with Regeneron’s CEO, Dr. Leonard Schleifer, which appears on his schedule on Aug. 4.

The following day, Gov. DeSantis held a press conference at Tampa General Hospital touting the treatments.

A Regeneron spokesperson told 8 On Your Side the company should not be at the center of this “political swirl.”

Regeneron has no special relationship to Governor DeSantis. Throughout the pandemic, our founder and CEO, Dr. Schleifer, has been talking to various lawmakers and public health officials across the country to see how we can help support education on proper use of monoclonal antibodies, particularly when infection rates are surging in a particular area. He spoke to Governor DeSantis on the phone about how monoclonal antibody treatments work and which patients are appropriate to receive treatment under the EUA parameters. He had similar conversations with officials in Michigan, for instance, when the virus was surging there in April of this year.

Alexandra Bowie, spokesperson for Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

Public health experts — including within the Biden Administration — have promoted monoclonal antibody treatments as well, particularly for use in early illness of COVID patients and as a preventative measure.

The governor’s support of these treatments is not new. A video posted in November to the governor’s YouTube page specifically mentions Regeneron before the company’s COVID treatment had been authorized for emergency use by the FDA.

The month before, Regeneron first entered the public eye, when its drug cocktail treatment helped former President Donald Trump recover from his serious illness with Covid in October 2020.

“It was, like, unbelievable,” Trump said in a video released on his now-banned Twitter account. “I felt good immediately.”

8 On Your Side reached out to several watchdog groups about this issue.

Common Cause Florida said it does not believe it has received any complaints about this situation, though it was still confirming at the time this story aired.

The Florida Ethics Commission said it cannot release information about current ethics complaints until they have been ruled on.

To get vaccinated or receive this treatment, visit one of the websites setup by the state of Florida to help find a vaccine site or monoclonal antibody site near you.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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