Former Republican Governors & Representatives File Motion Supporting Disney’s Lawsuit Against DeSantis

Several former Republican officials have filed a motion to support Disney in their lawsuit against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District.

The filing is an amicus curiae brief, a type of filing from parties who are not involved in the case but provide information and expertise. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press also filed such a brief earlier this week.

Republicans Support Disney’s Lawsuit

Entrance fountain spaceship earth featured image hero EPCOT 06242021 5485080 scaled 1

Among the Republican officials who filed this latest brief are former Minnesota Governor Arne Carlson, former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman, former Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts Kerry Murphy Healy, and former U.S. Representatives Tom Coleman, Claudine Schneider, and Christopher Shays.

The brief states that Governor DeSantis’ actions are no doubt “retributive” against Disney.

rcid reedy creek improvement district 6

After Disney publicly denounced Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill, DeSantis and the legislature took several retaliatory actions, leading to taking over the Reedy Creek Improvement District, renaming it the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, and replacing the Board with DeSantis appointees.

The officials agree that DeSantis “has thrown down nothing short of a direct challenge to the founding principles of this country.” They make the same argument as Disney — that the Governor has violated their freedom of speech as outlined in the First Amendment. They compare DeSantis’ actions to those of the Russian and Chinese governments also punishing businesses, saying “retaliation and censorship are symptoms of autocracy.”

In following these autocratic examples, Governor DeSantis’s actions cause harm that is far broader than that suffered by Plaintiff [Disney Parks]. In choosing to punish Plaintiff in the public square for criticizing contentious legislation, Governor DeSantis has made clear that he will use the power of his office to exact retribution against any corporation that dares to [use] their economic power to advance an agenda contrary to his own, or to become political and not merely economic actors. The Court should not validate this chilling authoritarian impulse if the promise of the Constitution is to have any meaning in the State of Florida.


Governor DeSantis, by seeking to legislate economic harm on Plaintiff in retaliation for its political opposition, has signaled to the marketplace that it cannot expect the certainty and predictability it requires to safely and profitably do business in the State of Florida. Any business considering expansion or further investment in the state must now take into account not just the business risks any going concern faces, but also the risk of economic retaliation from the Governor if it publicly opposes his political positions.

Magic Kingdom cinderella castle featured stock 8336 HDR

The Walt Disney Company is suing for “declaratory and injunctive relief.” They stated in the initial lawsuit:

Disney regrets that it has come to this, but having exhausted efforts to seek a resolution, the Company is left with no choice but to file this lawsuit to protect its cast members, guests, and local development partners from a relentless campaign to weaponize government power against Disney in retaliation for expressing a political viewpoint unpopular with certain State officials.

Governor DeSantis filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. This motion is expected to be resolved soon.

CFTOD Suing Disney

Central Florida Tourism Oversight District logo

Meanwhile, the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board is countersuing Disney in state court. Disney failed to have the CFTOD Board’s lawsuit dismissed for being moot. Judge Margaret H. Schreiber stated a suit is only moot “when the controversy has been so fully resolved that a judicial determination can have no actual effect.”

In their suit, the Board asks the state court to render Disney’s development agreement with the Reedy Creek Improvement District as unenforceable, null, and void. They also ask the same to be done of the restrictive covenants. It was the Board’s attempt to declare the development agreement null and void that led to Disney’s lawsuit.

The Board also had a closed session meeting with their attorneys to discuss ongoing litigation at the end of the public July 26 Board meeting.

john classe
Source: Orlando Sentinel

In other recent developments for the board, John Classe formally ended all work for the district.

Formerly an administrator of the Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID) for almost a decade, Classe was asked to stay behind and help organize the transition of the RCID into its newest iteration, consisting of leaders hand-picked by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. In a statement to the Sentinel, the CFTOD gave a brief explanation:

Mr. Classe was offered a consulting contract to assist with the transition to the new leadership. That transition is now complete. The district thanks him for his service.

glen gilzean jr 1

It’s still uncertain if the advising contract was terminated by Classe or the CFTOD Board. As a special advisor, he was required to assist in legal action against Disney and prohibited from working for the company. Primarily, he was also tasked with advising Glen Gilzean, the new administrator of the district.

Classe was previously named in Disney’s ongoing lawsuit against the Governor and District Board, but has since been removed from the list and replaced with Gilzean. His departure may indicate this period of transition is over in the eyes of the new district, now making decisions without involvement from previous leaders.

Michael A. Sasso edited v2 wide

This isn’t the first major departure in the brief history of the CFTOD. Board member Michael Sasso resigned from his position only a few months into a term that was supposed to last until 2027. Governor DeSantis ultimately named Charbel Barakat as a replacement. A reason or explanation was not given by Sasso or the CFTOD, but it is worth noting his wife was recently appointed by DeSantis to serve on the Florida Supreme Court.

The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District recently made some major changes to the area in and around Walt Disney World, approving property tax cuts and a new Reedy Creek Fire Department contract, along with abolishing the district’s diversity programs.

For the latest Disney Parks news and info, follow WDW News Today on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.