While it’s not rare for Volusia County businesses to make big donations in local election races, few contribute as much as the Hosseini family.
As of June 1, the family behind Intervest Construction Inc., also known as ICI, a homebuilding company, had contributed nearly $15,000 to local candidates. The company is one of the largest locally based homebuilding companies in the Volusia and Flagler area.
Among candidates receiving donations directly from ICI Homes and various members of the Hosseini family, none had received more than Dr. Fred Lowry, a Deltona resident who has been serving on the Volusia County Council but is now running for a seat on the School Board.
Lowry, a pastor who has endorsed numerous conspiracy theories from the pulpit, was endorsed June 20 by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Lowry has received $4,000 in donations from ICI and ICI-affiliated people, including $1,000 from founder Mori Hosseini’s wife, Forough Hosseini, founder of the charity Food Brings Hope.
Other donations directly from the development company or members of the Hosseini family include:
- $1,000 to County Council at-large candidate Jake Johansson
- $1,000 to County Council candidate Chase Tramont
- $2,000 to County Council incumbent candidate Danny Robins
- $1,000 to School Board candidate Justin Kennedy
- $2,500 to School Board candidate Jessie Thompson
- $1,000 to School Board District 5 candidate Ruben Colón, Lowry’s opponent in the School Board race.
Colón has since returned the $1,000 donation from Forough Hosseini. Colón attributed the donation to his work with Forough Hosseini for Food Brings Hope, but he returned the money, he said, to avoid the prospect that a large donor might ask him to vote one way or the other.
“This allowed me the freedom to make the best decisions for the students of Volusia County,” Colón said.
The Beacon reached out to ICI Homes and to one member of the Hosseini family for comment about the donations, but did not receive a response for publication.
The Hosseini family is not alone in donating large sums of money to campaign coffers.
Numerous candidates, including county-level candidates not named above, received $1,000 donations from insurance, real estate and construction companies.
Another company donating large sums of money in Volusia County races is Ghyabi Consulting & Management, a Volusia-based engineering firm.
County Council candidates Jake Johansson, Barb Girtman, Matt Reinhart, Danny Robins and Troy Kent all received $1,000 either from the company or its CEO, Maryam Ghyabi-White.
School Board candidates Jessie Thompson and Lowry each received $500 donations from Ghyabi Consulting & Management.
Ghyabi-White was appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2021 to an open seat on the St. Johns River Water Management District board.
Other notable donations to the candidates also supported by ICI and the Hosseini family include a $1,000 donation to Johansson from outgoing Volusia County Council Member Ben Johnson.
Also, congressional candidate Cory Mills donated $1,000 to School Board candidate Thompson, who also received several $1,000 donations from Tallahassee-based conservative political action committees.
Volusia to Tallahassee
Hosseini family patriarch Mori Hosseini was appointed to the University of Florida board of trustees by former Florida Gov. Rick Scott in 2016. Over the past year, Hosseini has been involved in controversies involving his position at the school.
In 2021, several UF faculty members were blocked by the university from testifying in a lawsuit questioning the constitutionality of a Florida election law that had been recently passed. Some professors criticized the university, arguing their First Amendment rights had been violated.
Hosseini called out the professors at a UF board of trustees meeting.
“I am speaking here of faculty members taking second jobs using the university’s state resources for their own personal gain,” he said. “I am speaking about faculty members who use their position of authority to improperly advocate personal political viewpoints to the exclusion of others.”
Shortly after that, Fresh Take Florida, a news service operated by University of Florida journalism students and staff, obtained text messages between then-UF President Kent Fuchs and Hosseini, that showed Hosseini had served as a back channel between Fuchs and Gov. DeSantis for decisions about whether to offer virtual schooling in the wake of a spike in COVID-19 cases.
UF chose to not move classes online amid the delta COVID-19 surge.
Hosseini was also instrumental in getting Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo his job as an associate professor at the University of Florida.
Ladapo has endured his own share of controversy, repeatedly questioning the safety of COVID-19 vaccines and, shortly after he was appointed as the state’s surgeon general, barring schools from quarantining students who had been exposed to the virus.
A Tampa Bay Times report found that the fast-tracking of the surgeon general to a tenured position at the university violated UF’s hiring standards. Documents obtained by the USA TODAY Network of newspapers revealed it was Hosseini who had emailed Ladapo’s résumé to UF.