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New documents show the Matt Gaetz campaign in full damage control mode
Photo illustration by The Daily Beast / Photos GettyAs Rep. Matt Gaetz fights allegations that he is involved in a sex ring. The Republican’s most recent financial report in Florida echoes a public relations conundrum that began even before he even acknowledged he was the focus of a federal investigation. The submission, which covers the three months between January and March, shows that Gaetz generated unprecedented donation expenses during what was normally a quiet time. During this time Gaetz dropped six digits in a direct mail flash and spent more money on fundraising than in all of 2020. Gaetz also paid $ 5,000 in fees for “strategic advice” to the notorious political agent Roger Stone and gave money for it Series of Florida state GOP lawmakers he has never endorsed before. The report also suggests that Gaetz – who cites his lack of friends in Washington as a point of pride – may be increasingly isolated; He has not received any contributions from his GOP colleagues. How scandal-ridden Matt Gaetz became “Excommunicado” at Fox News More than anything, the filing reflects a concerted effort to bolster support before the creeping shadow of the investigation. Gaetz spent roughly $ 170,000 on direct mail this year, including $ 116,543 in one day – March 31st. The previous day, the New York Times carried news that the Justice Department was investigating whether the third-term congressman had sex with the 17-year-old and paid for her trip, a possible violation of federal sex trafficking law. Gaetz has also invested heavily in fundraising, paying nearly $ 160,000 to Red Rock Strategies, based in Nevada, for advice on fundraising. That’s roughly $ 10,000 more than the fundraising campaign spent in 2019 and 2020 combined. This is evident from the analysis of the submissions in the FEC database by The Daily Beast. Last week, Politico also reported that Gaetz recently spent six-figure amounts on television advertising opposing the allegations. The 30-second spots, which are scheduled to run in his home district and on selected national cable networks, urge supporters to “fight back” against a “fake news cycle lasting several weeks” targeted specifically at CNN. The ad purchases were made after the quarterly registration deadline and are not included in the last report, but should appear in the next registration, which is due in July. However, one issue in particular will raise eyebrows: a $ 5,000 “strategic policy advice” fee to Drake Ventures, the company of longtime GOP smear artist and Gaetz employee Roger Stone. On Friday, the DOJ sued Stone and his wife, Nydia, because the couple owed millions in unpaid taxes and used Drake Ventures to protect more than $ 1 million. The campaign paid for Stone’s company on March 24, just days before Gaetz’s father held a face-to-face meeting with a former DOJ prosecutor, according to a person familiar with the meeting. In a bizarre interview with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson on March 31, Matt Gaetz alleged that his father recorded this conversation on the orders of the FBI, claiming without evidence that the former prosecutor was at the center of a complicated blackmail scheme for the congressman. Up until then, Drake Ventures had never paid for the Gaetz campaign. The report also suggests that Gaetz has few friends in Washington. While Gaetz renounced donations from PACs from companies, he kept the door open for donations from candidate committees. However, so far he has not reported any financial support from friends in Congress like Jim Jordan and Stephen Scalise in 2021, both of whom donated to his 2020 campaign. And while he donated $ 4,000 to Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rand Paul (R-KY) on the same day in mid-February, Gaetz did not give any colleague in the house money. However, Gaetz sent $ 1,000 in donations to five GOP Florida state senators on Jan. 26. Gaetz had not previously donated to any of their campaigns. One of the posts reflects Gaetz’s ties to Joel Greenberg, his longtime friend, whose federal-level charges against a number of crimes – including sex trafficking – have been made – with the probe targeting Gaetz. The contribution went to Jason Brodeur, a long-time ally of Gaetz who was also closely connected to Greenberg through local GOP circles. Brodeur’s campaign was screened for dirty tricks, including an alleged bogus candidate plan. Brodeur declined to participate and won the race that now represents Greenberg’s Seminole County at the state level. Gaetz has also continued to collect legal fees, a pattern set last summer around the time the DOJ investigation was reportedly launched. The Daily Beast reported earlier this month that weeks after the initial indictment against Greenberg – in June 2020 – Gaetz paid the law firm Venable LLP $ 38,000, nearly four times the total legal fees incurred in the past five years. The new filing reveals a $ 21,000 payment to Venable in February, bringing the total legal costs to $ 85,000 since Greenberg was indicted. Caleb Burns, an associate of Wiley Rein, who specializes in campaign finance law, told The Daily Beast that there is often a surge in legal fees accompanied by a parallel surge in fundraising: “The law allows candidates and officials To use campaign contributions for legal costs arising from the duties and responsibilities of their applicants and officials, ”said Burns. “However, if an officer gets into a car accident on the way to the grocery store – which has nothing to do with running for office or assuming office – the law prohibits the use of campaign funds to cover legal costs. As such, it is not uncommon for candidates and public officials who are scrutinized for their political activities to raise additional funds for their campaigns to offset the legal costs involved. “While the Gaetz investigation is to focus on allegations of sex trafficking, CNN reported earlier this month that federal investigators are also investigating irregularities in campaign funding as part of their broader investigation. Gaetz can legally tap his election campaign fund for these expenses. The congressman has already raised money from the scandal. On April 7th, Talking Points Memo published a fundraising email in the Gaetz “The New York Times” for reporting “brutal charges against me to end my career fighting for the forgotten men and women of this country” criticized. The email added that it is “a shame the left is trying to drag my dating life into their political attacks” and included a donation link urging supporters to “stand up against the fake news” . Gaetz donor Richard Bell, who the congressman told The Daily Beast late last month, that although Gaetz has liked Gaetz’s policies since arriving in DC, “should pay the price” if the allegations are true. “I know the defense is a hassle and I felt like I wanted to help,” said Bell. Another recent Florida donor, Jerry Klinger, told The Daily Beast that he gave Gaetz because he agreed with the Congressman’s “philosophy of small government”. However, Klinger said that “the shadows that have come out since may have made me think”. Klinger expressed skepticism about the merits of the DOJ investigation and said he had “no objections” if Gaetz used his donation for legal costs. But he pointed out that the congressman comes from a wealthy and influential family: “If dad wants to pay for juniors, that’s a different story,” he said. Read more at The Daily Beast. Get our top stories to your inbox every day. Sign up now! 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