The daily beast

Matt Gaetz said his “travelogues” would exonerate him. Not so fast.

Caroline Brehman When it became known last week that MP Matt Gaetz was being investigated for his sexual involvement in a 17-year-old, the Florida Republican said his travelogues would exonerate him: “It is a terrible allegation, and it is a lie, ”Gaetz told Tucker Carlson on Fox News a week ago. “The New York Times tells a story I toured with a 17 year old woman that has been proven to be wrong. People can look at my travel documents and find that it doesn’t. “What Gaetz knew – or should have known – is that there are no such public records, at least not when it comes to his private life, campaign submissions. Among all of Matt Gaetz’s revelations last week was news that the Justice Department is investigating the possible use of campaign funds by the Florida Republican for personal expenses. And the reality of these campaign financial reports is that they raise more questions than they answer about these alleged scandals: “The spending related to the Gaetz campaign just doesn’t say what it wants,” said Jordan Libowitz, Citizen Communications Director for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog for campaign funding, told The Daily Beast. “First, the reports do not provide specific information. and second, it’s not clear if he’s even saying that his campaign submissions will exonerate him. If he pays out of pocket, we will not know the answers without a subpoena. As Gaetz knows, his campaign submissions do not contain any information that would prove that he never participated in a sex ring or paid for the travel of an underage minor. However, his records show that Gaetz had a close relationship with Joel Greenberg – the Seminole County’s tax collector on charges of sexual trafficking. The Daily Beast reported last week that on Sunday, September 2, 2018, Greenberg asked one of his staff at the tax office to get an emergency driver’s license for Gaetz, who, according to Greenberg, had lost his ID the night before. “Amy – is there any way we can help one of our congressmen get a replacement emergency ID or DL ​​by 2:00 pm Tuesday? ”Greenberg wrote in the text. But Gaetz isn’t a Seminole County resident. The initial information on the county driver’s license website states that the office will “only process residents of Seminole County for ALL driver license or ID card services. No exceptions are made. “The website tells applicants that if they cannot provide proof of residence,“ a ticket for driver’s license or ID card services will NOT be serviced ”. The website also states that the county office is “NOT directly affiliated with the local state of Florida Driver License Office” and is only intended to perform “very limited licensing functions.” Seminole County is centrally located on the outskirts of Orlando, a few hours from the Panhandle neighborhood in Gaetz. That Monday was Labor Day, and the congressman caught that Tuesday flight to return to DC after fighting for re-election in his home district in November. However, the Federal Election Commission’s records for August and September show only one expense for an Orlando seller: a $ 439.91 fee for the upscale Rosen Center Hotel, paid on September 28 as part of the campaign’s monthly credit card bill. The exact date of the stay cannot be known without Gaetz submitting receipts – or without the DOJ submitting a summons. Libowitz said hotel expenses are “difficult to deduct” under campaign funding laws that prohibit the conversion of funds into personal use. “It makes sense for him to have to collect ID,” Libowitz said. “But I don’t know why a sitting congressman couldn’t do this alone in his own county and why he’d have to get a friend to do it for him.” Daily Beast, the records don’t tell the full story. “You can only use campaign money for electoral efforts. On the theory that he went to Orlando to illegally obtain a license, he would have a tough argument – that it is appropriate to use your campaign to circumvent state law, ”he said. “And that would be a stretch.” According to The Daily Beast review, the Gaetz Campaign Committee – Friends of Matt Gaetz – has about $ 57,000 in airfare, $ 57,000 in accommodation, $ 9,000 in various trips, and $ 40,000 over the past four years spent on gifts It is possible that all of these expenses are legitimate. The Gaetz campaign didn’t answer The Daily Beast’s questions about the spending. But when the DOJ looks at its reports on campaign spending, some of the charges could be difficult to explain. Perhaps the most mysterious is one of its smallest – a parking fee. During his break in August 2018, Gaetz ‘car appeared to be parked at an airport. On Thursday, September 13, 2018, Gaetz paid $ 382 to check out of the Republic parking garage at Pensacola International Airport in his home district. The highest price at the time was $ 11 a day, which indicates a car had been parked there for more than a month. (A manager in the garage in question told The Daily Beast that his system could only drive one car on one ticket at a time, so it wouldn’t have been multiple vehicles.) The records show that the payment came from Gaetz himself and that It was reimbursed later that day. Notably, in four years, the Gaetz Campaign has never paid Financial Records to park anywhere else. “That’s strange,” said Libowitz. “Probably someone would drop him off or take a shuttle or Uber. And if someone else picked up the car, why should Gaetz get a refund? This needs an explanation. “As of July 2018, the Gaetz campaign at the four-star Balboa Bay Resort in Newport Beach, California lost a total of around 3,000 US dollars. Gaetz himself paid for the first visit in advance and was then reimbursed by the campaign. However, the only public report of a campaign-related Gaetz sighting in the area was dated October 26, 2020 when he was speaking at the Freedom Forum in Newport Beach. FEC records reflect a payment of $ 475 to the resort three weeks later. Brandan Fischer, director of federal reform at the Government Guard at the Campaign Legal Center, told The Daily Beast that the FEC wants campaigns to clear the first transaction dates – not just the date the bill was paid. Gaetz cannot use public records to delete itself if they do not disclose the specific data and expenses. “This is something that the FEC should catch,” said Fischer. “It’s hard to tell on the face who traveled for what purpose. So it can be very difficult to tell the difference between legitimate spending and personal use of funds from just a public report. “Fischer said these discrepancies were” the kind of things prosecutors will look into “because they could point to personal information using campaign funds prohibited by federal law:” If the DOJ investigates its campaign’s spending, it will most likely be after Look for documents to support his own expenses and reimbursements, “said Fischer. “You are allowed to use campaign funds to pay for travel and office expenses, but you are not allowed to use them for a Sugar Daddy slush fund.” One item of expense that has been increasing recently is legal fees. In the month following Greenberg’s initial indictment – June 2020 – Gaetz paid the law firm Venable LLP $ 38,000, nearly four times the amount it had paid law firms over the past five years. In total, the campaign has given Venable at least $ 64,400 for legal work since Greenberg was indicted. Salon reported in October that the Trump organization Gaetz had apparently cut an illegal treasury contract 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, are part of an August 27 credit card bill specifically for that Accommodation provided – possibly “have been”. The campaign quickly filed an amended report that changed the payment details for three consecutive days from July 27-29 and another on August 1st. The report was also exchanged. Accommodation “for” meals “. An Instagram photo that has since been deleted showed Gaetz in the hotel lobby on August 27, the original payment date, and he was also photographed on August 27 when he arrived at the hotel with a suit in hand. The campaign also picked up on spending $ 14,000 on an event on November 8, 2019 for a Donald Trump Jr. book signing at Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort. Gaetz’s member of the Convention Bureau Ali Thomas appears to have joined him for the trip and has been reimbursed nearly $ 1,000 in travel expenses. Thomas started the year as an intern with $ 57 a day and on November 1 with $ 84,000 as Director of Operations salary. She still holds the position. FEC reports show it was the only time the campaign made a refund. Again, nothing about Gaetz’s campaign submissions is necessarily shameful. Given the information the DOJ is investigating into its campaign spending as part of its fuller investigation, many of its most suspicious spending may need additional clarification. But even if all of his records are legitimate, they certainly do not exempt him from allegations that he paid for a 17 year old to travel for the purposes of an illegal sexual encounter, especially if those costs could have been paid privately for those issues may be the slightest concern of Gaetz, they could nonetheless be harmful, even if difficult to prove. Libowitz illustrated the difficulties in reviewing Gaetz’s innocence claims by referring to the case of Rep. Duncan Hunter (R.-CA) convicted in January 2020 for using hundreds of thousands of campaign funds for his personal use – an investigation , which his organization CREW had started with a complaint about campaign funding: “The FBI and the DOJ found more than twice as many things as we did that went back years,” said Libowitz. “There is a limit to what you can learn from financial documents and I don’t think you will find a smoking gun either way without a subpoena or clear explanation from him. But in my professional experience, congressmen who do one thing badly tend to do a lot of things badly. “Read more at The Daily Beast. Get our top stories to your inbox every day. Sign up now! Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside delves deeper into the stories that matter to you. Learn more.