Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) on Thursday told Forbes he donated a $2,000 campaign contribution from the campaign committee of scandal-plagued Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) to a local charity, the third House Republican to do so – though others indicated they have no plans to return their donations.
A spokesperson for Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), another moderate, told The Philadelphia Inquirer the $2,000 was an “unsolicited contribution” from a GOP program meant to bolster vulnerable members and that they donated it to the Bucks County Police Memorial Project.
But others have said they won’t give away the money while a Department of Justice probe into Gaetz is ongoing, including Reps. Maria Salazar (R-Fla.), Brian Mast (R-Fla.) and Mike Garcia (R-Calif.), who told Forbes Gaetz “deserves due process” but that if he’s indicted or resigns, he will donate the money to a women’s shelter.
Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) said she was unaware of a $2,000 donation from Gaetz, but, when shown the Federal Election Commission filing and asked if she would give away the money, repeatedly replied, “I would, but I don’t have his Venmo handle.”
Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), asked about the $2,000 he got from Gaetz, told Forbes he “probably got 5 million bucks” in campaign contributions in the 2020 cycle and said to “ask the TV stations and radio stations that got my money where it’s at… ask them what charity they’re gonna give it to.”
Forbes has reached out to other members who got money from Gaetz.
Gaet has confirmed the DOJ is investigating allegations he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old who he paid to travel with him – a possible violation of sex trafficking laws. The DOJ is also reportedly looking into allegations that Gaetz paid for sex, while the House Ethics Committee is probing allegations of bribery, improper use of campaign funds and illicit drug, as well as claims he showed lewd photos to colleagues on the House floor.
Mace’s comment about Venmo was likely a reference to reports that Gaetz sent large amounts of money to associate Joel Greenberg, a local Florida politician who is under indictment for sex trafficking, stalking, wire fraud, bribery and a litany of other charges and has reportedly cooperated with federal investigators. Greenberg, shortly after receiving money from Gaetz, reportedly sent similar sums to young women through Venmo.
Despite reports of Gaetz’s persona-non-grata status, he was surrounded by anywhere from five to ten colleagues – including Reps. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) and Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) – during the hours he spent in the House chamber on Thursday, at times showing colleagues things on his phone. At one point, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy stopped to briefly chat with Gaetz.
“Matt Gaetz is the same as any American: innocent until proven guilty,” McCarthy said during a press conference on Thursday when asked if Gaetz will remain on the House Judiciary Committee. McCarthy revealed he had a conversation with Gaetz, in which Gaetz proclaimed his innocence and McCarthy explained GOP conference rules that he must forfeit his committee assignments if indicted.