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Disney sues DeSantis over alleged 'relentless campaign to weaponize government power' after special tax district revoked

Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The Walt Disney Co. filed a federal lawsuit against Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis on Wednesday after the theme park's special tax district, the Reedy Creek Improvement District, was revoked.

The suit alleged that DeSantis, the new board that oversees the former self-governing district, and several other Florida officials launched a "relentless campaign to weaponize government power" against Disney, according to CNBC.

The lawsuit was filed in the Northern District of Florida shortly after DeSantis' new five-member Central Florida Tourism Oversight District struck down a development agreement made by Disney that allegedly attempted to circumvent its authority, according to the board.

Chairman of Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Martin Garcia stated that the board "wanted to work with Disney, but Disney decided they didn't want to work with us. It was Disney's way or the highway."

Garcia insisted that Disney left the board with a "legal mess."

"Regardless of your politics, nobody should favor outdated legislation that elevates a corporation above the public good," Garcia said.

Disney accused DeSantis of leading an "orchestrated" attack against the company.

The lawsuit included several statements made by DeSantis, including guarantees he would "void the development agreement," "look at things like taxes on the hotels," and "tolls on the roads."

"Today's action is the latest strike: At the Governor's bidding, the State's oversight board has purported to 'void' publicly noticed and duly agreed development contracts, which had laid the foundation for billions of Disney's investment dollars and thousands of jobs," Disney's court filings stated.

"A targeted campaign of government retaliation — orchestrated at every step by Governor DeSantis as punishment for Disney's protected speech — now threatens Disney's business operations, jeopardizes its economic future in the region, and violates its constitutional rights," the filings continued.

Disney accused the governor's actions of being "patently retaliatory, patently anti-business, and patently unconstitutional."

Taryn Fenske, DeSantis' communication director, told CNBC, "We are unaware of any legal right that a company has to operate its own government or maintain special privileges not held by other businesses in the state."

"This lawsuit is yet another unfortunate example of their hope to undermine the will of the Florida voters and operate outside the bounds of the law," Fenske added.

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