On March 11, Disney announced it would suspend all political contributions in the state of Florida. The move came after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law the Parental Rights in Education Bill. Legislation prohibits educators from discussing topics such as gender identity and sexual orientation in K-3 classrooms. The bill has been called the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by critics who believe it will target members of the LGBTQ+ community. Shortly before the bill passed, Disney had spoken out against the bill, which angered Governor DeSantis, who said corporations don’t run the state.
Disney and Florida have been locked in a heated battle ever since. Disney CEO Bob Chapek said Disney would work closely with state groups and politicians to get the bill repealed. In turn, DeSantis and some of his fellow Republicans have announced they may consider repealing the Reedy Creek Act — which allows Disney to essentially operate as its own government.
While Disney and Florida Republicans may currently be at odds, conservative groups in Florida were able to derive some benefit from Disney before the contributions stopped. According to a new report from The Orlando Sentinel, before suspending donations, Disney already gave about $125,000 to the Florida GOP. By The Sentinel:
Prior to this year, Disney had donated about $55 million to Republicans, Democrats and state political committees over the past 28 years, including about $5 million in 2020 and more than $2 million in 2021, according to state archives.
The company had also given more than $100,000 to Friends of Ron DeSantis PAC since 2019.
Prior to this year’s break, in addition to the Florida GOP contribution, Disney also donated $25,000 to Florida’s Democratic legislative campaign.
His contributions to the political committee, however, leaned to the right. The company donated $25,000 to the conservative political group For a Better Florida, $25,000 to the conservative group Advancing Florida Agriculture, and $10,000 to Republican State Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis’ affiliate group, Treasure Florida.
Since deciding to speak out against the controversial bill, Chapek has repeatedly apologized to cast members for his handling of the bill. While initially remaining silent because he found the bill “irrelevant” to the business, he quickly realized how much it meant to thousands of Cast Members. Although he apologized and vowed to fight for equal rights, it was not soon enough to prevent a number of walkouts and protests.
Disney has not released a statement on its donations at this time. They also didn’t say if they would start donating to Florida politicians again, only to those who promise to work with advocacy groups to fight the parental rights in education bill. Disney, however, said it would fight in other states as well.