(The Center Square) – The Florida Department of Financial Services (DFS) has requested 100,000 private companies registered as vendors authorized to bid on state contracts to verify within 30 days whether they are “majority-owned by United States interests.”
Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis said at Thursday's Florida Cabinet meeting – the first gathering of the state’s four top elected officials since February – that DFS will demand contractors and vendors “self-identify whether they’re majority American-owned.”
The goal of the query, he said, is to “better identify businesses that are majority Communist Party of China-owned that do business with the state of Florida.”
In an April 23 letter to Chinese Ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai, Patronis warned the state has identified $2 billion in unclaimed assets in Florida linked to “wholly” owned Chinese companies that it may target as restitution to compensate the state for costs incurred from the COVID-19 emergency.
“China should own the problems they've caused this country and the state of Florida due to their mishandling of #COVID19. Let’s find any unclaimed property of Chinese-owned companies and look at ways to use it to help Florida,” Patronis tweeted that same day.
On Thursday, Patronis said his warning to Tiankai fell on deaf ears, so he is authorizing DFS to ferret out vendors with Chinese ties.
“Since they’ve chosen to not respond to our official transmission, we’re going to follow through in our commitment of identifying Chinese-owned businesses that do business with the state,” he said. “This will provide us information should Florida need to withhold payments to these businesses as federal leaders sort out potential financial impacts against the Communist Party of China.”
DFS’ Vendor Ownership Survey, sent to the state’s registered contractors, said, “If you are a vendor that is domiciled in the United States and controlled directly or indirectly at all levels (meaning at least fifty percent (50.00%) ownership or more) by United States citizens and entities (“U.S. Interests”), you are hereby requested to respond within 30 days by verifying your status as a company owned and controlled by U.S. Interests, in order to avoid necessary follow up by the Department.
“If you are not included in the above because you are not owned or controlled by U.S. Interests,” the survey concluded, “your response stating so is also requested.”
Florida Cabinet meetings are chaired by the governor. In addition to Gov. Ron DeSantis and Patronis, the Cabinet includes Attorney General Ashley Moody and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried.
All four have targeted China, generally, and the Communist Party of China (CPC), specifically, since the COVID-19 emergency emerged in March.
DeSantis routinely accuses China of withholding disclosure about the coronavirus to hoard personal protective equipment and other supplies “to try to screw over the rest of the world.”
Moody joined 17 other state attorneys general last month in calling on Congress to investigate CPC for an alleged “massive conspiracy to cover up and mislead the international community about the severity and highly contagious nature of the novel coronavirus.”
Fried is lobbying against a “misguided” USDA-approved plan to import five types of Chinese citrus as the state’s $8.6 billion citrus industry combats greening disease, or citrus huanglongbing (HLB), a bacteria that originated in China.
Florida Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and U.S. Rep. Michael Waltz, R-St. Augustine Beach, have called on DFS to purge Chinese companies from the state's $200 billion investment portfolio after learning the Florida Retirement System (FRS) owned – as of June 2019 – 1.8 million shares in Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co. Ltd., a black-listed Chinese-owned company.