Matt Gaetz was there for scores of Republicans when needed, but are they there for him now?
Matt Gaetz. Image via AP.

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Gaetz gave $78K for Ron DeSantis, $77K for Scott Franklin. Will they help him?

Since Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz‘s political and legal futures are looking radioactive, Republicans across Florida and the country need to decide whether to keep their distance, even though he was there for scores of them when they needed a friend.

Like any good party member with a decent fundraising machine and a safe district, Gaetz has frequently redirected campaign cash he didn’t need to assist other Republicans who probably did need it. There have been 90 of them since 2016, including local, state, and congressional candidates, plus Donald Trump.

While Gaetz has made national fame as one of Trump’s biggest cheerleaders, his most generous gestures of help assisted now-Gov. Ron DeSantis and now-Rep. Scott Franklin.

Now Gaetz is under investigation for a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old including possibly for sex trafficking, according to The New York Times. He denies the allegations. He also responded by saying that he’s the victim of a massive extortion attempt. The allegations and his responses to them — characterized as weird by Fox News’ Tucker Carlson — appear to have driven away many political allies. Few have talked about him lately, and even fewer have come to his defense.

Yet for at least the past five years, Gaetz has been coming to other Republicans’ aid.

As much as any, Gaetz’s longtime alliance with DeSantis, dating to when they were Trump acolytes together in the House of Representatives, might be tested now.

Gaetz was there for DeSantis, donating $78,000 to various committees backing his election as Governor in 2018, according to Federal Election Commission reports.

Gaetz was there last summer in a big way for Franklin, too. As the former Navy officer was in an underdog campaign to oust scandal-sullied Rep. Ross Spano in the Republican primary, Gaetz was among the biggest names to endorse Franklin over the incumbent. Gaetz then backed that up with $75,000 donated to the super PAC campaigning for Franklin, Wingman PAC, just before the primary. Gaetz also wrote a $2,000 check to Franklin’s official campaign.

So far, neither DeSantis nor Franklin has publicly offered Gaetz a shoulder to lean on.

By contrast, Gaetz provided just $4,000 for Trump’s efforts, including $2,000 to back Trump’s doomed 2020 post-election strategies.

Gaetz’s next most impressive gesture went to help then-House Speaker Richard Corcoran, providing his Watchdog PAC with $15,000 in the summer of 2017. That was when Corcoran was weighing his prospects in a run for Governor. Corcoran decided against it and eventually backed DeSantis‘ election instead. DeSantis then appointed Corcoran Education Commissioner.

Gaetz helped Ashley Moody‘s 2018 election to become Attorney General with $5,000, and Jimmy Patronis‘ 2018 CFO election a lot less, with $500.

In the five years he has had federal campaign accounts, Gaetz has transferred money to aid five U.S. Senate candidates outside of Florida, including the two Republicans who lost the Georgia runoffs in January, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler; more than 60 U.S. House candidates; seven state House candidates; plus non-federal, out-of-state candidates here and there, such as Greg Gianforte, who was elected Governor of Montana last year.

In addition to Franklin, Gaetz also endowed Florida’s U.S. Reps. Brian Mast, Byron Donalds, Kat Cammack, Vern Buchanan, and Maria Elvira Salazar. He also supported Anna Paulina Luna and Laura Loomer, who lost. Mast got $5,000 over three election cycles. Luna got $4,000. The others got $2,000.

Outside of Florida, Gaetz bequeathed $2,000 apiece to such conservative congressional luminaries as Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Lee Zeldin of New York, Darrell Issa of California, Debbie Lesko of Arizona, Chip Roy of Texas, and dozens of others.

Greene and Jordan, who know what it’s like to need friends in troubled times, have come to Gaetz’ defense. The others? Not so much.

In Florida’s legislative races last year, Gaetz gave $500 to all four candidates in the Republican primary for House District 4, including winner Rep. Patt Maney. He gave $1,000 apiece to Rep. Alex Andrade in House District 2, Rep. Jason Shoaf in House District 7.and Rep. Anthony Rodriguez in House District 118. Andrade has returned the favor.

Gaetz provided $1,000 apiece to the 2020 campaigns of Sheriff Chip Simmons in Escambia County, Sheriff Eric Aden in Okaloosa County, Supervisor of Elections Chris Anderson in Seminole County, Schools Superintendent Marcus Chambers in Okaloosa, and two County Commission candidates in Okaloosa, including Nathan Boyles.

Gaetz also has been a frequent and reportedly valuable rainmaker, keynoting various county Republican Executive Committees’ and other groups’ fundraisers, though he hasn’t often contributed directly to them. He provided $10,000 to Orange County Republicans and $2,500 to the Walton Republican Women Federated.

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected]


2 comments

  • Valeta Jones

    April 2, 2021 at 10:17 pm

    Rep Gaetz, I have no doubt that you are not guilty. You’ve always been respectful and helped others. I pray they will help you now.
    I will keep you in prayers and I’m so glad your one of our Rep. Soon this will all get straightened out.

    Reply

  • James Robert Miles

    April 3, 2021 at 8:52 am

    You must be living in a dream world! Must be great to have a child molester for a rep. Typical F’ing Republican!!

    Reply

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