Rep. Matt Gaetz takes victory lap after FEC ethics vote ‘exonerated’ him

Far-right Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) took a victory lap Thursday after it was revealed that an ethics complaint against him had been unanimously dismissed last month.

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) had received an allegation that the 41-year-old congressional campaign had wrongly footed the bill for approximately $200,000 in legal fees between November 2020 and October 2021.

At the time, Gaetz was involved in a Justice Department investigation into alleged sex trafficking that concluded last February without charges against the lawmaker.

An FEC filing shows that the commission closed the ethics case against Gaetz on Aug. 8, unanimously concluding that there was no evidence that he had been “improperly converting campaign funds for personal use.”

“Exonerated. Again. Vote 5-0,” Gaetz exclaimed on X, formerly Twitter, after Politico first reported the filing.

Gaetz’s boasts about the so-called “exoneration” came amid his latest high-profile dispute with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

On Tuesday, when the House returned to session after a six-week recess, Gaetz threatened to file a motion to vacate the speakership, which under current House rules requires only a single member’s proposal to receive a vote.

McCarthy, who initially voiced “Matt’s Matt” in response to the challenge, suggested that the Florida congressman’s crusade against him was motivated by the president’s refusal to intervene in a separate House ethics investigation.

Matt Gaetz voted “present” in January to help Kevin McCarthy take the speaker’s gavel.REUTERS
Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthy has become more direct about his feelings toward the Florida congressman.Getty Images
Matt GaetzSo far, few of Matt Gaetz’s like-minded peers seem willing to follow his lead in an eviction motion, at least not publicly.

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“Matt is upset about an ethics complaint. I don’t care what they threaten against me. “I’m not going to intervene on an independent committee like Ethics,” McCarthy told reporters.

Gaetz, in response, disputed McCarthy’s implication.

“It’s about term limits, a balanced budget amendment and single-issue spending bills, just like I’ve been saying for a whole year,” the Floridian told MSNBC on Wednesday.

“I am the most investigated man in the entire Congress. And right there you saw Kevin McCarthy lying there like a dead dog, because I have never asked him to interfere in any ethical matter,” he added.

Earlier this year, during a marathon of 15 votes to determine who would hold the speaker’s gavel, McCarthy agreed to lower the threshold for an override motion to one vote, appearing to be Republican caucus hardliners.

Matt GaetzThe congressman has caused political headaches for the president as he juggles multiple pressing issues. CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

A defiant McCarthy challenged members to remove him during a closed-door meeting Thursday morning, according to Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.), who was present.

“’If you want to make a motion to vacate, then make a motion against the king,’” McCarthy (R-Calif.), 58, said in his lecture, according to Mast.

McCarthy is dealing with an unruly group as he seeks to guide his party through the appropriations process.

Congress has until September 30 to pass a funding bill to prevent a partial government shutdown.

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