The daily beast
Matt Gaetz said his “travel logs” would exonerate him. Not so fast.
Caroline Brehman When it was first learned last week that Rep. Matt Gaetz was under investigation for his sexual involvement with a 17-year-old, the Florida Republican said his travel records would exonerate him. He lies, ”Gaetz told Tucker Carlson on Fox News a week ago. “The New York Times publishes a story that I have traveled with a 17-year-old woman, and that is verifiably false. People can look at my travel records and see that this is not the case. ” 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 presentations. Among all of Matt Gaetz’s revelations last week was the news that the Justice Department is investigating the potential use of the Florida Republican’s campaign funds for personal expenses. And the reality of those campaign finance reports is that they raise more questions than they answer about these alleged scandals. “The spending around Gaetz’s campaign just doesn’t say what he wants it to say,” Jordan Libowitz, communications director for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a campaign finance watchdog, told The Daily Beast. . “One, the reports don’t offer specific information; And two, it is not clear if he is even saying that his campaign presentations will exonerate him. If you are paying out of pocket, we will not know the answers without a subpoena. ” As Gaetz knows, his campaign documents do not contain any information to show that he never participated in a sexual network or paid for the travel of a minor. What his filings do show, however, is that Gaetz had a close relationship with Joel Greenberg, the Seminole County tax collector charged with sex trafficking charges. The Daily Beast reported last week that on Sunday, September 2, 2018, Greenberg asked one of his tax office employees to make an emergency replacement driver’s license for Gaetz, who Greenberg said had lost his identification the last night. “Amy- Is there any way to help one of our congressmen get an emergency replacement ID or DL by Tuesday at 2pm? “Greenberg wrote in the text, but Gaetz is not a Seminole County resident. The first information on the county driver’s license website says the office” will process only ‘Seminole County Residents’ for ALL Licensing services. Driver’s License or Identification Card. No exceptions will be made. ” The site tells applicants that if they cannot present proof of residency, “a ticket to obtain a driver’s license or identification card services will NOT be honored.” The website also clarifies that the county office is “NOT directly affiliated with the local state of Florida.” Driver License Office ”and only serves“ to perform very limited licensing functions ”. Seminole County is centrally located on the outskirts of Orlando, several hours from the Gaetz Panhandle district. That Monday was Labor Day, and the congressman was taking that Tuesday flight back to DC after campaigning in his home district for reelection in November, but the Federal Election Commission filings for the August and September reveals only one expense for an Orlando provider. – A $ 439.91 charge to the exclusive Rosen Center Hotel, paid on September 28 as part of the campaign’s monthly credit card bill. The exact date of stay cannot be known without Gaetz submitting receipts, or without the Justice Department issuing a subpoena. Libowitz said the hotel’s spending is “difficult to achieve” under campaign finance laws that prohibit converting funds for personal use. “It makes sense if I had to pick up the ID,” Libowitz said. “But I don’t know why a sitting congressman couldn’t do that on his own, in his own county, and why he would have to get a friend to do it for him.” As Libowitz pointed out to The Daily Beast, the presentations don’t tell the whole story. “Campaign funds can only be used for efforts leading up to an election. So under the theory that he went to Orlando to obtain a license illegally, he would have a difficult case to make: it is appropriate to use his campaign to circumvent state law, ”he said. “And that would be an exaggeration.” According to The Daily Beast review, Gaetz’s campaign committee, Friends of Matt Gaetz, has spent in the last four years about $ 57,000 on airfare, $ 57,000 on accommodation, $ 9,000 on miscellaneous travel, $ 40,000 on gifts . and about $ 24,000 in meals. All of those expenses may be legitimate. The Gaetz campaign did not respond to The Daily Beast’s questions about spending. But with the Justice Department looking at its campaign spending reports, several of the charges could be difficult to explain. Perhaps the most mysterious is one of the smallest: a parking fee. During his August 2018 hiatus, it appears that Gaetz’s car was parked at an airport. On Thursday, September 13, 2018, Gaetz paid $ 382 to pay for Republic parking at the Pensacola International Airport in his home district. The highest rate at the time was $ 11 per day, indicating that a car had been parked there for more than a month. (One garage manager in question told The Daily Beast that their system could only do one car at a time on one ticket, so it wouldn’t have been for multiple vehicles. The filing indicates that the payment came from Gaetz himself, and that it was refunded later that day. Notably, in four years of financial records, the Gaetz campaign has not paid for parking anywhere else, at any other time. “That’s strange,” Libowitz said. “Presumably he would have someone drop him off or take a ferry or Uber. And if someone else picked up the car, why would Gaetz get reimbursed? This one needs an explanation. ” Gaetz’s campaign has also dropped a total of about $ 3,000 at the four-star Balboa Bay Resort in Newport Beach, California, FEC filings show, as of July 2018. Gaetz himself prepaid the first. visit, and was later reimbursed by the campaign. However, the only public report of a campaign-related Gaetz sighting in the area is from October 26, 2020, when he addressed the Freedom Forum in Newport Beach. The FEC filings reflect a payment to the complex of $ 475 three weeks later. Brendan Fischer, director of federal reform at the government watchdog Campaign Legal Center, told The Daily Beast that the FEC wants campaigns to clarify the dates of the initial transactions, not just the date. that the bill was paid. Gaetz can’t use public records to clean himself if they don’t reveal specific dates and spenders. “This is something that the FEC should grasp,” Fischer said. “It is difficult to know at first glance who was traveling and for what purpose. So it can be really difficult from a public report to differentiate between legitimate spending and personal use of the funds. “Fischer said these aberrations are” the kind of things that prosecutors are going to consider, “because they might indicate use of campaign funds, which is prohibited by federal law. “If the Justice Department is investigating your campaign spending, it is very likely that it will seek documentation to support its own spending and reimbursement,” said Fischer. campaign to pay for travel and office expenses, but they are not allowed to be used for a ‘sugar daddy’ bribery fund. ”One expense item that has recently increased is legal fees. One month after Greenberg was first charged, June 2020, Gaetz paid the Venable LLP law firm $ 38,000, nearly four times the amount it paid to law firms over the previous five years. In total, the campaign has disbursed at least $ 64,400 to Venable for legal work since Greenberg was indicted. Salon reported in October that the Trump Organization appeared to have cut Gaetz an illegal boyfriends deal to stay 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 a credit card bill from August 27 and specifically designated for lodging, they could have been “associated with food and drink for political gatherings he was doing.” The campaign quickly produced an amended report that changed the dates of the payments to three consecutive days from July 27-29, and another on August 1. The report also changed “accommodations” to “meals.” A since deleted Instagram photo showed Gaetz in the hotel lobby on August 27, the original payment date, and was also photographed on August 27. August arriving at the hotel with what appears to be a suit in hand. $ 14,000 in expenses for a November 8, 2019 event for a Donald Trump Jr. book signing at Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort. Ali Thomas, member of the office staff Gaetz’s Congress appears to have joined him for that trip, and was reimbursed nearly $ 1,000 in travel costs. Thomas started the year as an intern with $ 57 a day, and by November 1 she was director of operations, earning $ 84,000 salary. She still holds the position. FEC reports show that it was the only time the campaign ever reimbursed him. Again, there is nothing necessarily dire in any of Gaetz’s campaign documents. However, with the information that the Justice Department is examining your campaign spending as part of its broader investigation, many of your more suspicious spending may require further explanation. But even if all of your presentations are legitimate, they certainly don’t exonerate you from allegations that you paid for a 17-year-old to travel for the purpose of having an illegal sexual encounter, particularly when those expenses could have been paid privately. These issues may be the least of Gaetz’s concerns, they could still serve to be damning, even if they are difficult to prove. Libowitz illustrated the difficulties of verifying Gaetz’s claims of innocence by pointing to the case of Rep. Duncan Hunter (R -CA), who was sentenced in January 2020 for diverting hundreds of thousands of campaign funds for his personal use, an investigation that his organization, CREW, started with a campaign finance complaint. “The FBI and the Justice Department found more than twice as many things as we did, going back years,” Libowitz said. “There is a limit to what you can learn from financial documents, and I don’t think you will find a smoking gun in any direction without a subpoena or a clear explanation from it. But in my professional experience, members of Congress who do something wrong tend to do a lot of things wrong. ” Read more at The Daily Beast. Get our top news delivered to your inbox every day. Register now! Beast Daily Membership: Beast Inside delves into the stories that matter to you. Learn more.