Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, in recent weeks, has found himself on the U.S. Department of Justice's radar in connection with a sex trafficking and corruption investigation — allegations that the far-right GOP congressman vehemently denies. Journalist Roger Sollenberger, in an article published by the Daily Beast this week, describes Gaetz's 2022 campaign as being in total damage control mode. But Sollenberger stresses that the campaign's problems go beyond the DOJ's investigation.
Sollenberger reports, "As Rep. Matt Gaetz combats allegations that he was involved in a sex ring, the Florida Republican's latest campaign finance report reflects a public relations scramble that began even before he acknowledged being the focus of a federal investigation. The filing, which covers the three months between January and March, shows that Gaetz has incurred unprecedented fundraising expenses during a typically quiet period. In that time, Gaetz dropped six figures on a direct mail blitz, shelling out more for fundraising services than he did in all of 2020."
According to Sollenberger, the finance report "also indicates that Gaetz — who cites his lack of friends in Washington as a point of pride — may be increasingly isolated; he's received no contributions from his GOP colleagues."
"More than anything," Sollenberger explains, "the filing reflects a concerted effort to bolster support ahead of the creeping shadow of the investigation. Gaetz has spent roughly $170,000 on direct mail outreach this year, $116,543 of it on one day: March 31. The previous day, The New York Times broke the news that the Justice Department was looking into whether the third-term congressman had sex with a 17-year-old and paid for her travel — a possible violation of federal sex-trafficking laws."
Sollenberger also points out that Gaetz paid the Nevada-based Red Rock Strategies "nearly $160,000 for fundraising consulting," which according to the Daily Beast's analysis of Federal Election Commission data, is about $10,000 more than he spent in 2019 and 2020 combined.
On March 24, according to Sollenberger, Gaetz's campaign paid $5000 to long-time GOP operative and Donald Trump ally Roger Stone — who was on his way to federal prison before the former president granted him a pardon. Specifically, Gaetz paid the money to Stone's company Drake Ventures. The DOJ, Sollenberger notes, is suing "Stone and his wife, Nydia, alleging that the couple owes millions in unpaid taxes and have used Drake Ventures to shelter more than $1 million."
But Sollenberger observes that Gaetz, for all his problems, has "already raised money" because of the DOJ's sex trafficking probe. Talking Points Memo, on April 7, published a fundraising e-mail in which the embattled congressman attacked the 'far-left New York Times" for publishing "salacious allegations against me in an attempt to end my career fighting for the forgotten men and women of this country."