The daily beast
Matt Gaetz said his “travel records” would exonerate him. Not so fast.
Caroline Brehman When it emerged last week that Rep. Matt Gaetz was under investigation for having sex with a 17-year-old, the Florida Republican said his travel records would exonerate him. lie, ”Gaetz told Tucker Carlson on Fox News a week ago. “The New York Times publishes a story that I traveled with a 17 year old woman, and it is presumably false. People can look at my travel records and see that it isn’t. What Gaetz knew – or should have known – is that there are no such public records, at least not with regard to his privacy. , campaign deposits. Among all of Matt Gaetz’s revelations last week was the news that the Justice Department is investigating the Florida Republican’s potential use of campaign funds for personal expenses. And the reality of these campaign finance reports is that they raise more questions than they answer about these alleged scandals. “Gaetz campaign spending just doesn’t say what he wants it to say,” Jordan Libowitz, communications director for Citizens for Accountability and Ethics in Washington, a finance watchdog from Washington. campaign, told the Daily Beast. “First, the reports do not offer specific information; and second, it is not clear whether he even says his campaign statements will exonerate him. If he pays out of pocket, we won’t know the answers without a summons. As Gaetz knows, his campaign materials contain no information that would prove that he never participated in a sex ring or paid for the trip of a minor. What his documents show, however, is that Gaetz had a close relationship with Joel Greenberg – the Seminole County tax collector indicted on sex trafficking charges. The Daily Beast reported last week that on Sunday, September 2, 2018, Greenberg requested one. of his tax office workers to make an emergency replacement driver’s license for Gaetz, who Greenberg said had lost his ID the night before. Greenberg wrote in the text, but Gaetz is not a resident of Seminole County. Early information on the County Driver’s License website indicates that the office will “only process’ residents of Seminole County” for ALL driver’s license or ID card services. No exceptions will be made. ” The site tells applicants that if they cannot produce proof of residency, “a ticket for driver’s license or ID card services will NOT be processed.” The website also makes it clear that the county office “is NOT directly affiliated with the local state of Florida. Driver’s License Office ”and serves only“ to perform very limited licensing functions ”. Seminole County is centrally located on the outskirts of Orlando, several hours from the Gaetz Panhandle neighborhood. Monday was Labor Day, and the congressman was catching that Tuesday flight to return to Washington after campaigning in his home district for re-election in November. But the Federal Election Commission filings campaign for August and September reveal only one expense to an Orlando salesperson. : A fee of $ 439.91 at the upscale Rosen Center hotel, paid September 28 as part of the campaign’s monthly credit card bill. The exact date of stay cannot be known without Gaetz producing receipts or without the DOJ making a summons. Libowitz said hotel charges are “difficult to achieve” under campaign finance laws that prohibit converting funds for personal use. “It makes sense if he were to get the ID card back,” Libowitz said. “But I don’t know why a sitting congressman couldn’t do this alone, in his own riding, and why he would have to find a friend to do it for him.” Daily Beast Deposits don’t tell the whole story. “You can only use campaign funds for efforts that go towards an election. So according to the theory that he went to Orlando to get a license illegally, he would have a difficult case to make – that it is appropriate to use your campaign to circumvent state law, ”he said. -he declares. “And that would be a bit of a stretch.” According to the Daily Beast analysis, Gaetz’s campaign committee – Friends of Matt Gaetz – has spent over the past four years about $ 57,000 on airline tickets, $ 57,000 on lodging, $ 9,000 on miscellaneous travel. , $ 40,000 in gifts and approximately $ 24,000 in meals. It is possible that all of these expenses are legitimate. The Gaetz campaign did not respond to The Daily Beast’s questions about spending. But as the DOJ examines its campaign spending reports, a number of accusations could be difficult to explain. Perhaps the most mysterious is one of the smallest – parking fees. an airport. On Thursday, September 13, 2018, Gaetz paid $ 382 to exit the Republic Parking garage at Pensacola International Airport, in his home neighborhood. The highest rate at the time was $ 11 per day, indicating that a car had been parked there for over a month. (An official at the garage in question told the Daily Beast that their system could only put one car on a ticket at a time, so there wouldn’t have been multiple vehicles.) The deposit says payment came from Gaetz himself, and that He was reimbursed later that day. Notably, in four years of financial records, the Gaetz campaign has paid for parking nowhere else, at no other time. “It’s strange,” Libowitz said. “Presumably he would have someone drop him off or take a shuttle or Uber. And if someone else came to pick up the car, why would Gaetz be reimbursed? This one needs an explanation. The Gaetz campaign also dropped a total of about $ 3,000 at the four-star Balboa Bay Resort in Newport Beach, Calif., According to documents filed by the FEC, as of July 2018. Gaetz himself prepaid for the first visit, and was then reimbursed by the campaign. However, the only public report of Gaetz’s sighting related to the campaign in the region dates from October 26, 2020, when he addressed the Freedom Forum in Newport Beach. The FEC deposits reflect a payment to the resort of $ 475 three weeks later. that the invoice has been paid. Gaetz can’t use public records to empty himself if they don’t disclose specific dates and expenses. “This is something the FEC should catch,” Fischer said. “It’s hard to tell on the face who was traveling and for what purpose. It can therefore be very difficult, simply from a public report, to differentiate between a legitimate expenditure and personal use of funds. Fischer said these aberrations are “the kind of thing prosecutors are going to look at” because they could indicate “If the DOJ investigates his campaign spending, he will most likely look for documents to support his own spending and refunds, ”Fischer said. “It is permissible to use campaign funds to pay for travel and office expenses, but not to use them for a ‘Sugar Daddy’ slush fund.” One expense item that has increased recently is legal fees. The month after Greenberg’s first indictment – June 2020 – Gaetz paid the law firm Venable LLP $ 38,000, nearly four times the amount he paid. he had paid law firms over the previous five years. In total, the campaign has paid Venable at least $ 64,400 for legal work since Greenberg was indicted. Salon reported in October that the Trump organization appeared making an illegal deal with Gaetz for accommodation at the Trump International Hotel. Gaetz later told the Florida Phoenix, “I don’t think I stayed there” and that the four separate charges – between $ 216.20 and $ 261.47 , part of an Aug. 27 credit card bill and specifically intended for accommodation – could have been “associated with food and drink for the political meetings I was doing.” The campaign quickly filed an amended report who changed The payment dates on three consecutive days from July 27 to 29, and another on August 1. accommodation ”for“ meals ”. A since-deleted Instagram photo showed Gaetz in the hotel lobby on August 27, the original payment date, and he was also pictured on August 27 arriving at the hotel with what appears to be a suit in hand. Spending $ 14,000 for a November 8, 2019 event for a Donald Trump Jr. book signing at Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort. Ali Thomas, a staff member of Gaetz’s Congress office, appears to have joined him on this trip and was reimbursed nearly $ 1,000 in travel expenses. Thomas started the year as an intern at $ 57 per day and on November 1, she was COO, at $ 84,000. salary. She still holds the position. FEC reports show that was the only time the campaign paid her back. Again, there is nothing necessarily bad about Gaetz’s campaign deposits. However, with information that the DOJ is examining his campaign expenses as part of its larger investigation, many of its more suspicious expenses may require further explanation. But while all of his documents are legitimate, they certainly don’t exonerate him from claims he paid for a 17-year-old to travel for the purpose of illegal sex, especially when those expenses could have been paid. in private. These issues are perhaps the least of Gaetz’s worries, they could still be overwhelming, even if they are difficult to prove. Libowitz illustrated the difficulties of fact-checking Gaetz’s allegations of innocence by bringing up the representative’s case. Duncan Hunter -CA), who was convicted in January 2020 of embezzling hundreds of thousands of campaign funds for his personal use – an investigation his organization, CREW, launched with a campaign finance complaint. things like we did years ago, ”said Libowitz. “There is a limit to what you can learn from financial documents, and I don’t think you will find a weapon smoking back and forth without a clear subpoena or explanation from it. But in my professional experience, members of Congress who do something bad tend to do a lot of bad things. Register now! Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside delves deeper into the stories that matter to you. Learn more.