Gov. Ron DeSantis’ effort to distance himself from embattled U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz just got more difficult, as two giant reminders of their close association before Gaetz’s underage sex-trafficking controversy are coming to the Governor’s Tallahassee home.
Political group Ron Be Gone announced Wednesday that two billboards highlighting DeSantis close relationship with Gaetz will be displayed just outside the Governor’s Mansion at the intersection of North Monroe Street and Thomasville Road.
One billboard depicting the two Republicans features a joke Gaetz made on DeSantis’ 2018 campaign trail for the Florida governorship: “Matt Gaetz says DeSantis is the ‘Batman’ to his ‘Robin’.”
The other references an ongoing U.S. Justice Department investigation into whether Gaetz broke sex-trafficking laws by engaging in a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and paying for her to cross state lines, and implies DeSantis knew about it: “Best friends keep each other’s secrets”.
Sex between an adult age 24 or older and a person 17 or younger qualifies as statutory rape in Florida. Gaetz is 39. He was in his mid-30s at the time of the alleged relationship.
“If Ron DeSantis thinks he can hide the true nature of his friendships with Matt Gaetz, he’s sorely mistaken,” said veteran Florida Democratic strategist Brice Barnes, one of the organizers behind Ron Be Gone. “Floridians need to know that their Governor owes his political career to a congressman who is caught up in a federal investigation where someone pleaded guilty to multiple counts, including sex-trafficking a minor.”
Gaetz, who hasn’t been charged with a crime, has denied involvement in the scandal to which his associate, former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg, pleaded guilty in May.
But the digital trail federal investigators are following may contradict the Fort Walton Beach Republican’s story. In April, the Daily Beast reported it obtained Venmo records from 2018 showing transfers of funds from Gaetz to Greenberg, who then transferred identical sums of money to teenage girls, one of whom was 17 at the time,
Sources familiar with the case have said charges against Gaetz could come this month.
The results of a separate House Ethics Committee inquiry into whether Gaetz “may have engaged in sexual misconduct and/or illicit drug use, shared inappropriate images or videos on the House floor, misused state identification records, converted campaign funds to personal use, and/or accepted a bribe, improper gratuity, or impermissible gifts, in violation of House Rules, laws, or other standards of conduct” are pending.
A key ally to DeSantis, Gaetz urged the Governor to appoint several people who are now caught up in the federal investigation, Politico reported in May, quoting a former worker as saying, “By the time we were in heavy General Election mode, DeSantis was not doing anything without Gaetz being on it.”
Despite the threat of criminal charges hanging over his head for months, Gaetz has still proven himself to be a powerhouse fundraiser. Between April and June, his reelection campaign pulled in about $1.45 million. He has raised $3.25 million since January.