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'Don't Say Gay' bill sponsor resigns after charged with fraud

Florida state Rep. Joe Harding announced he's stepping down to deal with allegations he fraudulently obtained Covid relief funds for dormant businesses.


What better way to celebrate United Nations International Anti-Corruption Day than with news of a loathed politician resigning amid allegations of corruption.

On Thursday, Florida state Rep. Joe Harding, a Republican, resigned after he was indicted on federal charges of money laundering, wire fraud and making false statements. 

Federal investigators said Harding unlawfully attempted to obtain more than $150,000 in federal Covid relief funds meant for small businesses devastated by the pandemic by submitting applications for businesses that had been dormant for months. As NBC News reported on Wednesday, the indictment alleged Harding received around $45,000 of the $150,000 he sought. 

The Justice Department accused Harding of using "materially false and fraudulent pretenses, representations and promises" as part of his alleged Covid relief scheme. He pleaded not guilty in court on Wednesday.

A Facebook page for Harding’s campaign posted his resignation letter on Thursday, NBC News reported

“It has been a great honor to serve the people of this state and more specifically the people of Levy and Marion Counties,” Harding said in the letter. “However, due to legal issues that require my complete focus, it is my opinion that now is the time to allow someone else to serve my district.”

Harding also said he had repaid “every penny” of the loan and “there will be a time” when he can tell his story in detail.

Ha, what a cliff-hanger.

It seems Harding — who sponsored the homophobic education law critics dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill — is a big proponent of transparency when it pertains to children’s sexual orientation. Perhaps, not so much when it concerns his business practices.

Harding, for example, tried to amend the “Don’t Say Gay” bill so it would force schools to disclose a student's sexual orientation to their parents. Harding ultimately withdrew the amendment, which would have amounted to child abuse given the devastating psychological and physical dangers of outing LGBTQ children.

Unfortunately, with the help of right-wing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Harding managed to make his weird obsession with children’s sexuality into law. But, thankfully, he’ll be forced to deal with more pressing matters in the near future. 

There’s a lesson here, and it’s “mind your own business, Joe.” 

Legally, of course.