Yesterday, we reported on issues raised regarding two political action committees once led by State Rep. Matt Gaetz. This morning the Daily News picked up the story – PAC funds prove controversial for Gaetz.
Gaetz told the Daily News reporter Tom McLaughlin that he has had no no correspondence or communication with the Economic Freedom Foundation or the Free Enterprise Fund since he resigned in March.
Since then the PACS have been closed and the funds remaining funds were were contributed to a Super PAC called North Florida Neighbors that has made donations to Gaetz’s congressional campaign.
A few minutes ago, the Rebekah Bydlak campaign sent out an email, subject line “Breaking Information in Gaetz Super PAC Scandal,” that uncovered more information about the relationship between the PACs and North Florida Neighbors:
“In a letter from Economic Freedom Foundation counsel, Bucky Mitchell, dated November 12, 2015, Economic Freedom Foundation informed the Florida Division of Elections that the PAC would not make any further contributions to North Florida Neighbors (link). This letter was sent while State Representative Matt Gaetz was PAC Chairman. As has been previously reported, six months later, on May 29, 2016, the organization then made a contribution of more than $369,000 to North Florida Neighbors.”
The PAC documents on the Florida Division of Elections show that state auditors questioned a $10,000 contribution from Economic Freedom Foundation to North Florida Neighbors made in August 2015 – CampaignDocument. EFF unsuccessfully tried to get a refund from North Florida Neighbors, but the funds had already been obligated – Nov Reply and Jan Reply. Economic Freedom Foundation counsel, Bucky Mitchell, did state that the Economic Freedom Foundation “will not make this type of expenditure in the future” in his November reply, but did not specifically cite North Florida Neighbors.
In response to the Florida Division of Elections documents, Bydlak campaign manager Braden Goodgame issued the following statement:
The information revealed regarding potentially improper contributions made to North Florida Neighbors, a SuperPAC in support of Rep. Gaetz, must be answered for. As conservatives, we believe above all else in the rule of law, and it is important that all candidates abide by the laws in place when running for office.
Rep. Gaetz said just last week at Rally 2016 that he is ‘in favor of full disclosure’ and that ‘if someone wishes to speak through the dollars they contribute to a political campaign, that speech comes with certain obligations for people to know what that’s about and who they are.’ We would urge him to respond immediately so that the voters of the First District can assess whether wrongdoing took place.
Whether or not the actions of North Florida Neighbors and Rep. Gaetz represent breaches or the law in addition to their obvious breach of basic ethical standards is not for us to decide, but there can be no question that Matt Gaetz needs to tell voters what he knows about how his Super PAC was funded.