Matt Gaetz, Super PAC & “Pay-to-Play”

The Huffington Post
August 5, 2016
Written by Paul Blumenthal

This Super PAC Is Funded By Groups Once Run
By The Candidate It Now Supports

That could be a problem.

Two PACs once connected to Florida state Rep. Matt Gaetz contributed to a super PAC now supporting his congressional candidacy.

Matt Gaetz

WASHINGTON — Three days before Florida Republican state Rep. Matt Gaetz announced his intention to run for an open seat in Congress, he sent two letters to the state’s Division of Elections formally stepping down as the chairman of two leadership PACs he had run for over two years. Three months later, those two PACs contributed all of their remaining funds to a super PAC supporting his congressional bid.

These donations are yet another sign of the porous rules restricting coordination between campaigns and independent groups. Whether the PAC contributions to the pro-Gaetz super PAC amount to violations of Federal Election Commission rules governing coordination depends on the as-yet-unknown facts of the case.

The contributions in question include a $369,008 donation from the Economic Freedom Foundation and a $11,306 contribution from the Free Enterprise Fund. Both are political action committees registered with the Florida Division of Elections. They were led by Gaetz from 2013 until he stepped down as chairman and named Amanda Clark as his replacement on March 18, 2016. On March 21, he announced his congressional bid.

Under Clark’s leadership, the two PACs filed papers with the Florida Division of Elections to formally terminate operations on May 26. Then on June 20 they contributed their remaining funds to North Florida Neighbors, a federally registered super PAC.

North Florida Neighbors was created in July 2015 with a stated goal of supporting the congressional campaign of Republican Neal Dunn in Florida’s 2nd Congressional District.

One of the group’s first contributions was actually a $10,000 donation from Gaetz’s Economic Freedom Foundation.

At the time, Gaetz was running for the state Senate seat currently occupied by his retiring father, Don Gaetz. It wasn’t until Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) announced that he was retiring from Congress that the younger Gaetz dropped the bid to replace his father in the state Senate and threw his hat into the race to represent Florida’s 1st Congressional District in Washington.

On May 20, North Florida Neighbors announced that they would now be supporting Gaetz’s campaign along with Dunn’s — conveniently running in neighboring districts in Florida’s panhandle. One month later, the super PAC received the $380,314 in contributions from the two PACs formerly led by Gaetz. These contributions amount to 65 percent of the total funds raised by the super PAC.

North Florida Neighbors has since spent $292,262 to support Gaetz in the eight-candidate Republican primary in the 1st District.

The question at issue is whether Gaetz directed his successor at his two leadership PACs, Amanda Clark, on what to do with the remaining funds. Neither the Gaetz campaign nor

Clark responded to requests for comment.

Federal coordination rules prohibit any entity controlled by a candidate from making independent expenditures on their behalf. Although untested, those rules presumably extend to prohibit contributions from a leadership PAC controlled or directed by a candidate to a super PAC supporting that candidate.

“If what happened was that he raised the money to these state organizations and then he said ‘transfer money over to the super PAC,’ that would be illegal,” Larry Noble, general counsel to the Campaign Legal Center, told The Huffington Post. “What they always say, though, is that they had nothing to do with it.”

Christina Johnson, spokeswoman for North Florida Neighbors, simply stated, “We don’t comment on specific contributions or donors.”

This is not the first time that a candidate-linked leadership PAC has contributed to a super PAC supporting the same candidate. In 2015, a leadership PAC connected to Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) donated $75,000 to Prosperity for Pennsylvania, a super PAC run by former Toomey aides. The super PAC, however, refunded the Toomey leadership PAC contributions more than a month after The Huffington Post wrote about them. That was before the super PAC spent a dime on Toomey’s election.

~ Paul Blumenthal is the Money in Politics Reporter for The Huffington Post. Original Article Here.

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nwfdailynews.com
August 8, 2016
Written by Tom McLaughlin

PAC Funds Prove Controversial for Gaetz
Republican District 1 candidate Cris Dosev: “This is pay for play, quid pro quo. You want to play, you pay. These people have paid to play and now they’re paying some more.”

In the last two election cycles, state Rep. Matt Gaetz has counted on a leadership PAC called the Economic Freedom Foundation to influence local election campaigns.

Before beginning his run for Congress earlier this year, Gaetz resigned as chairman of the Economic Freedom Foundation as well as the Free Enterprise Fund, another PAC he chaired.

Soon thereafter, both organizations turned over all of their assets, $380,314, to a Super PAC supporting Gaetz in his run for Florida’s District 1 seat in the U.S. House.

Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, maintains that he resigned as chair of the organizations he used in 2012 and 2014 to fund opponents of sitting Okaloosa County Commissioners because federal election law dictated that he do so.

He said he has had no contact with the PACs, or their new chair Amanda Clark, since he cut ties on March 18.

Gaetz was therefore unaware, he said, that on May 26 Clark filed papers with the state to shut down the Economic Freedom Foundation and the Free Enterprise Fund.

Or that on June 20 the funds left over in both accounts were contributed to a Super PAC called North Florida Neighbors.

“At the time I filed for office I was legally required to resign from the committees I led. I did so and have had no correspondence or communication with that committee since,”

Gaetz said. “All decisions made would have been made by the new head of that organization.”

Efforts to reach Clark on Monday were unsuccessful.

The Huffington Post first reported on and questioned the timing of the funds moving from Gaetz’s former committees to the Super PAC he shares with fellow Republican congressional hopeful Neal Dunn.

“Federal coordination rules prohibit any entity controlled by a candidate from making independent expenditures on their behalf,” the article said.

Gaetz said he’s been “viciously attacked” by the Huffington Post before.

“It’s no surprise the Huffington Post would attack a Panhandle conservative,” he said.

But the financial maneuvering also gave those running against Gaetz room to question big money politics.

“It’s one thing to have a Super PAC come in on their side, but coordinating, that’s against the law,” said fellow Republican District 1 candidate Cris Dosev. “One day that money’s in a state account and the next it ends up in a Super PAC.”

Dosev said the congressional race should be about “credibility, experience and maturity” and not money.

Fellow Republican candidate James Zumwalt said “it is incumbent on all voters to research all of the candidates and not just the ones they see more on television.”

Steven Specht, the single Democrat in the race for the District 1 seat, said the timing of the money movement points out the need for a bipartisan congressional review of campaign finance laws.

Gaetz rebutted the comments of his opponents by pointing out that he has raised more money from in-district donors than the other seven candidates combined. He noted that Dosev, a former Marine with Illinois roots, has received significant donations from Peoria.

Candidate Rebecca Johansen Bydlak, Gaetz said, has received donations from Washington D.C.

Dosev countered that many Gaetz donors are men and women who have received favors from Gaetz as a state House members.

“This is pay for play, quid pro quo,” Dosev said. “You want to play, you pay. These people have paid to play and now they’re paying some more.”

~ Tom McLaughlin, nwfdailynews.com, Original article here.

COMMENTS
(on above article from nwfdailynews.com, as of August 9, 2016 4:30PM)

Glen Jones:
While NWF voters wring their hands over same-ole, same-ole crooked politics, they keep on electing same-ole, same-ole crooked politicians.

Hil:
He is NOT going to win the election and he knows it. He’ll try anything now. Moving that money to the PAC puts it back in his hands for the election. This should be illegal.

James Guzman:
Gaetz you need to leave florida for good and stop pretending to be somebody your are not. Please do not vote this guy in!! Like the article mentioned “do your own research before you place your vote” Ps. His smile is even crooked in this picture.

Christopher Damien:
Cris Dosev for Congress has identified itself as the only candidate that is willing and able to tenaciously go after career politicians and the slick moves they try to pull over on the citizens for which they are supposed to work. If you think this needs to happen in Washington, then send the candidate that will fight. He has proven his intentions.

Gregory E. Johnson:
Surprisingly NOT mentioned in this article is the fact Amanda Clark, Chairperson of the PAC “North Florida Neighbors” is in fact the spouse of Chris Clark, who is Chief of Staff for Florida State Senator Don Gaetz. So, I guess one could think Northwest Florida has it’s very own “Clinton” style family; that being the Gaetz folks who just like the Clinton’s have their fingers in everything spreading their influence far and wide!

Tintruder:
Seems Dosev is the only candidate with any real integrity. The rest of these rats have never earned anything by way of honest work, so they manipulate government for their own financial reward. Dosev, on the other hand, is a self-made man who doesn’t need this job, but chooses to pursue it in order to help our citizens. Instead of choosing yet another sneaky, self-serving insider, choose someone with good character. Cris Dosev is that man.

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One Response to Matt Gaetz, Super PAC & “Pay-to-Play”

  1. Pingback: Matt Gaetz: Tax Break for Quint Studer Equals Big Donations | Community Issues • Pensacola

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