February 01, 2022

How Matt Gaetz's Battered Campaign Bled Almost $100000 in 2021 - The Daily Beast

Federal sex crime investigations don’t pay.

That appears to be one takeaway—among many—from the year that has befallen beleaguered Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL).

After two breakneck fundraising quarters to kick off 2021, his campaign committee, Friends of Matt Gaetz, ended with a $94,838.65 loss on the year, according to a report filed on Monday with the Federal Election Commission.

Those first six months saw record fundraising for the three-term Republican, and it likely would have been a banner year if it weren’t for the investigation, which is examining whether Gaetz sex-trafficked a 17-year-old girl, illegally paid for sex, obstructed justice, violated the Mann Act, and played a role in an allegedly corrupt political influence campaign—and additionally whether his campaign broke the law in furthering any of those possible crimes.

All told, the Gaetz campaign hemorrhaged well over a million dollars in costs last year that appear associated with the investigation and related fallout—more than one out of every five dollars raised in the same period. And even though the Gaetz campaign ended the year with a bit over $1.5 million in the bank, it's highly unusual for a congressman to spend more money in a non-election year than the campaign takes in.

Asked for comment, Gaetz pointed to his 2020 pledge not to accept special interest funds.

“I’m the only Republican in Congress who doesn’t take lobbyist or PAC money. I rely exclusively on donations that average around $38. HBO made a movie about it called The Swamp,” Gaetz said, referring to a documentary that chronicles Gaetz and other Republicans’ relationships in Washington.

(On Monday, the Trump campaign announced an average donation of $31 over the last six months.)

As for Gaetz’s legal troubles, more than $100,000 of his campaign’s disbursements on the year went to lawyers. That’s significantly more than the total $73,515 the campaign paid in legal fees since the Florida man’s first congressional bid in 2016. (That 2021 total would have been more than $130,000, but one firm returned its $25,000 retainer after severing ties with the campaign over the summer under unclear circumstances.)

In fact, Friends of Matt Gaetz paid more than its previous four-year total to one lawyer alone this year—$75,000 to Marc Fernich, who has represented convicted sex traffickers Jeffrey Epstein and Keith Raniere, as well as mobster John Gotti and imprisoned drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. Fernich pocketed $50,000 in campaign...

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