GOP senator slammed for accepting cash tainted by Matt Gaetz while railing against sex trafficking
Mike Lee speaks to NBC (screen grab)

A hometown journalist skewered Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) for holding onto money raised for his campaign by scandal-plagued Rep. Matt Gaetz (R--FL).

The Utah Republican hosted a $10,600-per-couple fundraiser dinner at Donald Trump's Mar-A-Lago resort in February, co-headlined by Gaetz and Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), and Salt Lake City Tribune reporter Robert Gehrke called him out on it.

"The question I have is: Given the cloud over Rep. Gaetz currently, are there any plans to sequester or potentially return some of those funds pending the outcome of the investigation?" Gehrke asked Lee's campaign back in May, before Gaetz's associate Joel Greenburg pleaded guilty to sex trafficking a 17-year-old girl and other charges.

The Lee Victory Fund, which was set up as a joint fundraising committee for the Gaetz event, raised $250,750, and $193,706 of it was sent to the senator's re-election campaign and much of it already spent -- despite his campaign manager's assurances that they'd wait for the investigation play out.

"I was under the impression that we were talking about the money given by Matt Gaetz directly," said campaign manager Matt Lusty when asked about the spending. "Our statement was referring to him, not everyone that attended the event."

But, Gehrke pointed out, Gaetz never directly gave money to Lee, and the campaign had promised not to spend money raised at the joint Mar-A-Lago event until the allegations against the Florida Republican had been fully investigated.

"Voters should remember, next time they hear the senator saying how concerned he is about sex trafficking, that he stood alongside a man accused of the same and took the money," Gehrke wrote. "And when his slick TV ads and mailers start running asking for your vote, paid for by 'Friends of Mike Lee,' don't forget exactly who those friends really are."