TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WFLA) — Gov. Ron DeSantis has tapped the co-founder of the Moms for Liberty conservative activist group to serve in the Florida Commission on Ethics.
In a news release Wednesday, DeSantis announced that former Brevard County School Board member Tina Descovich will serve on the nine-member board.
The Florida Commission on Ethics “serves as the guardian of the standards of conduct for officers and employees of Florida and its political subdivisions,” according to the commission’s website. The board is intended to be an “independent commission” that investigates “complaints of breach of the public trust by public officers and employees.”
Descovich posted the following statement to X, the platform formerly known as Twitter:
The Florida Ethics Commission is charged with serving as the guardian of the standards of conduct for public officers and employees as well as safeguarding public trust. It will be a privilege to serve the state I love as a member of this commission.Tina Descovich
Moms for Liberty emerged on the Florida political scene as a parental rights organization, decrying what it calls “woke indoctrination,” which includes COVID lockdowns, teachers unions and “pornographic” books. The group rose to prominence by flooding school board meetings with its supporters and codifying their demands in legislation like the state’s Parental Rights in Education Act, or the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
Since 2021, the organization has grown to “300 chapters, 45 states and 120,000 members,” Descovich told NBC affiliate WESH in June. The explosive growth is reflected in its influence on the mainstream Republican party.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) civil rights watchdog considers Moms for Liberty to be an “antigovernment,” “extremist” organization. The group has called for eliminating the U.S. Department of Education, a policy touted by several Republican presidential candidates during the GOP primary debate last month.
In addition to their legislative advocacy, Moms for Liberty officials and members helped popularize the online use of the term “groomer,” which has since become a broadly anti-LGBTQ+ slur, according to the Human Rights Campaign. A Miami-Dade chapter member reportedly told MSNBC in an interview that she believes LGBTQ+ students should be separated from their classmates “like children with autism, Down Syndrome.”
The organization also opposes diversity, equity and inclusion measures and “critical race theory.” Its leaders run in the same circles as conservative activists like anti-CRT proponent Christopher Rufo, who was appointed to the New College of Florida board by Gov. DeSantis last year.
Sarasota County School Board member Bridget Ziegler was also a Moms for Liberty co-founder, but she has left the group. Her husband, Christian Ziegler, is the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida. She has disputed her alleged ties to the local Proud Boys chapter.
Bridget Ziegler was appointed by DeSantis to the newly-formed Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, the special taxing district for the land of Walt Disney World Resort, created as part of an ongoing feud between Disney and DeSantis.
In response to the Southern Poverty Law Center report, Descovich said she rejects their claims “absolutely.”
“Our members, our chapter leaders are of all races, they are of all sexes, and they are of all sexual preferences,” Descovich told WESH. “This narrative that they’ve been driving is this whole radical left ideology.”
Gov. DeSantis also appointed south Florida attorney Luis Fuste to the ethics commission on Wednesday. The new appointees will need to be approved by the Florida Senate.
Former commission chair Glen Gilzean resigned from the unpaid position last month after a legal opinion said he was unable to simultaneously serve on the commission and work for the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. Gilzean earns $400,000 annually as the district’s administrator.
Another vacancy on the ethics commission was created in June, when former member Jim Waldman’s term ended.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.