GOP's Matt Gaetz confronts new, difficult ethics questions

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) is well on his way toward earning a reputation as a lawmaker with ethics troubles.
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Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., speaks during a House Judiciary Committee markup of the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 on Capitol Hill on June 17, 2020.Kevin Dietsch / Pool via AP
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By Steve Benen

During his relatively brief career on Capitol Hill, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) has already earned an unfortunate reputation as an overbearing and unserious partisan. But the young Florida Republican may soon be known as a lawmaker with ethics troubles, too.

Gaetz first faced ethics questions last year when, the day before Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony, Gaetz appeared to threaten Donald Trump's former attorney via Twitter. As regular readers may recall, legal experts weighed in almost immediately, suggesting Gaetz's online missive looked an awful lot like the Republican congressman was trying to influence Cohen’s testimony -- which would be witness tampering, which is a felony.

In the face of difficult questions, Gaetz initially refused to back down, but he hastily retreated soon after. The matter was, not surprisingly, reviewed by the House Ethics Committee.

More recently, Gaetz also faced an ethics probe for using public funds to rent an office from a donor at rates below market rate.

A new Politico report, however, is raising entirely new concerns about the far-right lawmaker.

Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz has privately engaged in several spending practices in his nearly four years in office that appear to be in conflict with the House’s ethics rules, a POLITICO investigation has found.... His latest actions suggest a broader pattern by the second-term lawmaker of pushing the bounds of -- if not outright defying -- restrictions intended to guard against corruption and conflicts of interest.

Politico's list of alleged transgressions is not a flattering one for the congressman. It included, for example, an instance in which Gaetz "improperly sent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars to a limited liability company linked to a speech-writing consultant who was ousted from the Trump administration, in direct conflict with House rules."

The consultant in question is Darren Beattie, who was forced to depart the White House after attending a conference frequented by white nationalists.

The same article also highlighted a television studio installed in the congressman's father's home, which Gaetz uses for media appearances. Politico found that the GOP lawmaker has used taxpayer funds to rent a camera, and "the private company that built the studio -- which Gaetz refuses to identify -- takes a fee each time he appears on air."

The article added, "Gaetz’s office denies wrongdoing in both cases. Gaetz’s aides said the House Ethics Committee approved both arrangements but declined to produce any evidence that that was the case."

These revelations were just published this morning, and as best as I can tell, there have been no developments related to a new ethics investigation into the Florida Republican. That said, it wouldn't be too surprising if such a probe were to begin relatively soon.