Disney sues DeSantis of Florida over efforts to “weaponize” the government | Business and Economic News

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Disney says there was a “relentless campaign to use government power against Disney” against free speech.

Walt Disney Co sued Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Wednesday, asking a court to overturn state efforts to control Walt Disney World theme parks and intensifying a battle between the global entertainment giant and a presidential contender the US.

The lawsuit marks the US company’s response to growing efforts by DeSantis and his supporters to seize control of Disney World, which draws millions of visitors. visit each year to their large amusement parks, the first of which opened in 1971.

“The company has no choice but to file this lawsuit to protect its cast members, guests and local development partners from an unrelenting campaign to weaponize government power against Disney in retaliation for expressing a political view that is unpopular with certain state officials,” Disney said in his lawsuit.

A spokesman for DeSantis said Disney’s action was “an unfortunate example of their hope to undermine the will of Florida voters.”

“We are not aware of any legal right for a company to run its own government or retain special privileges that other businesses in the state do not have,” DeSantis spokesman Jeremy Redfern said on Twitter.

The lawsuit alleges that DeSantis’ newly formed tourism board violated Disney’s contractual rights, did so without just compensation and ignored due process. . Disney also argues that its rights to free speech were denied under the First Amendment to the US Constitution. The company is asking the court to declare Florida’s legislative action illegal.

The battle began last year after the company criticized a state law that banned classroom discussion of sexuality and gender identity in schools.

Disney CEO Bob Iger has called the retaliation against the company “anti-business” and “anti-Florida”. The company employs about 75,000 people in the state.

DeSantis, who is seen as a likely candidate for the 2024 US Republican presidential nomination, is currently traveling in Asia as part of a trip to several other countries.

Disney shares were up slightly on Wednesday afternoon.

State Republicans last year targeted Disney after he publicly clashed with DeSantis.

Florida lawmakers passed legislation that ended Disney’s virtual autonomy in developing 10,100 hectares (25,000 acres) in central Florida where its theme parks are located.

But before DeSantis’ appointees took over, Disney pushed through changes to the special tax zone agreement that has limited the board’s action for decades.

Shortly before news of the lawsuit broke, Florida’s new board of directors said Disney’s plans for a possible expansion of the Walt Disney World Resort did not comply with state law, and announced the that agreement is void.

The Central Florida Tourism Review Board unanimously upheld an attorney’s findings of legal flaws in the developers’ agreement Disney reached in February with a previous board, including a lack of proper public notice.

“What our attorneys have told us, factually and legally, is what they have created is an absolute legal mess,” said Board Chairman Martin Garcia. “It won’t work.”

The upset could boost DeSantis’ support among US Republican voters, a Reuters/Ipsos poll found, but it could also hurt him among the general electorate.

Seventy-three percent of respondents—including 82 percent of Democrats and 63 percent of Republicans—said they were less likely to support a political candidate who supports laws that they were designed to punish a company for its political or cultural stance.

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