According to The Salt Lake Tribune’s Robert Gehrke, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) not only held onto money raised alongside alleged sex trafficker Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) but has already begun spending the money.
As you might recall, back in February Lee hosted a $10,600-per-couple dinner at Donald Trump’s Mar-A-Lago Resort, co-headlined with Gaetz and Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert.
On some level he should be judged by the company he keeps.
That’s particularly true when it comes to Gaetz, because not long after the fundraiser, news began to pour out that the congressman is the subject of an ongoing federal investigation into whether he had given gifts and payments to a 17-year-old girl in exchange for sex and whether he and his buddy, Joel Greenberg, arranged to bring women across state lines for sex.
After my piece ran in May, Greenberg pleaded guilty to six federal charges, including sex trafficking a minor, providing her cash payments and drugs. He did so, according to court documents, along other unidentified individuals who “engaged in commercial sex acts” with her and continues to be cooperating with authorities.
Gehrke noted that Lee’s campaign initially said it would hold onto the funds raised in February and “let the legal process play out,” adding that “if there’s a finding of wrongdoing, we will make a decision about it then.”
But it appears this is not the actual approach the campaign took, according to columnist.
Fast forward to last week, when Lee’s fundraising committees had to file their semi-annual financial disclosure, and we come to learn they did no such thing.
The Lee Victory Fund, created as a joint-fundraising committee for this Gaetz event, raised a total of $250,750. Most of it — $193,706 — was forwarded to Lee’s re-election campaign.
Nearly $43,000 went to his political action committee, Lead Encourage Elect PAC (or LEE PAC), spending at least a portion of it on fundraising, event-hosting, consulting expenses as well as making donations to which turned around and gave money to 10 other Republican Senate candidates.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee received $10,517, and the remainder was spent on operational costs and compliance.
Lee’s campaign manager Matt Lusty explained the apparent discrepancy by saying that he “was under the impression that we were talking about the money given by Matt Gaetz directly. Our statement was referring to him, not everyone that attended the event.”
However, Gehrke noted that Gaetz never gave money to Lee directly, as well as the fact that his initial question to Lusty was straightforward — clearly not asking about direct donations from Gaetz.
It’s possible that, in the end, Gaetz will be exonerated and this won’t matter. And it is true that Lee held the fundraiser before he knew about the alleged behavior. But he knows now. And he is spending the money after very serious, substantive and troubling information has come to light, including the court documents in the Greenberg plea.
Image: Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) [left]; Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL). (Screengrabs / Senator Mike Lee ; The Hill / YouTube)