Robert Bigelow, a hotel magnate often quoted for his eccentric beliefs about the galaxy and afterlife, contributed $10 million to a political committee DeSantis controls on July 7, according to records maintained by the committee on its website. It’s the largest single contribution by an individual on record in Florida, where there are no limits on how much a person or business can donate to a political committee.
The eight-figure check will go into an already massive warchest that DeSantis has built as he seeks reelection. As of July 1, the political committee for DeSantis, Friends of Ron DeSantis, and his campaign reported sitting on a combined $118 million. That figure will continue to grow after he officially documents the contribution from Bigelow to the state.
One Republican operative in Florida recently told CNN that the expectation is DeSantis will raise $200 million by the November election, and he is well on his way to that figure. Prior to Bigelow’s donation, Citadel investment firm founder Ken Griffin’s $5 million contribution was the largest from an individual to Friends of Ron DeSantis.
Bigelow did not immediately return a message left with an assistant at the Las Vegas headquarters for Bigelow Aerospace. A spokesman for DeSantis did not respond when asked if DeSantis has met Bigelow.
Bigelow is the owner of a budget hotel chain and became a pioneer in the commercial space industry. His company built the inflatable room used on the International Space Station, and Bigelow once hoped the technology could be used to fund orbital hotels. Forbes magazine in 2011 described him as a “cosmic landlord.”
His ambitions have at times intersected with Florida’s space interests. In 2011, Bigelow signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Space Florida, the state’s aerospace economic development agency, to find companies that could benefit from Bigelow’s technology. He has also worked directly with NASA, which often launches its rockets from Florida’s Cape Canaveral.
Bigelow is generally not known for financing Republican campaigns. The donation to DeSantis appears to be the first from Bigelow to any state candidate or political committee in Florida, according to a review of a state campaign finance database.
But since the start of 2021, Bigelow has opened up his checkbook for a handful of GOP causes. He has donated $50,000 to the Noem Victory Fund, a federal political committee that supports North Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, $10,000 to Maggie’s List, a group that supports conservative women running for office, $2,000 to the Republican National Committee and about $5,800 to Rep. Kat Cammack, a north Florida Republican.
More recently, Bigelow launched the Bigelow Institute for Consciousness Studies to determine whether there is an afterlife. The initiative included a $1 million contest for scientists, religious scholars, researchers and others to produce evidence that human consciousness can survive bodily death.