The House Ethics Committee is conducting an investigation into Rep. Matt Gaetz that includes reaching out to a woman he reportedly had sex with while she was still a minor. CNN reported Thursday that this investigation is now expanding, with the committee seeking information from a former Capitol Hill staffer described both as Gaetz's “ex-girlfriend” and a “key witness.”
In CNN’s words, the investigation includes “allegations of sex crimes, drug use, and illicit benefits.” But Gaetz is reportedly adamant that the whole thing is just “payback” for his role in ousting former Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy.
Despite the source, there may be some truth to Gaetz’s claims. McCarthy may no longer be in the House, but he is reportedly "out for blood" and going on a "revenge tour" to get back at Gaetz and others he feels betrayed him.
While members of the House Ethics Committee have declined to comment, an attorney for Gaetz’s ex-girlfriend informed CNN that she is a potential witness in the ongoing investigation. The woman’s relationship with Gaetz reportedly goes back to 2017, which is the same period in which Gaetz was reportedly involved in sexual contact with a 17-year-old girl.
A federal probe into allegations that Gaetz was involved in sex trafficking ended in 2023, with no charges filed against Gaetz. That investigation was connected to a scheme involving Florida tax collector Joel Greenburg—a reported friend of Gaetz—who was sentenced to 11 years in prison for six federal charges including sex trafficking, identity theft, and wire fraud.
The House Ethics Committee resumed its investigation into Gaetz in June 2023, several months before McCarthy was ousted. According to private correspondence that The Daily Beast reviewed, Gaetz told a friend that his effort to undercut and remove McCarthy from the speaker position was payback for launching the ethics probe. Gaetz ultimately forced the vote that ousted McCarthy, and was obviously pleased with the outcome.
“We heard Speaker McCarthy say that he wanted us to ‘Bring it on!’ Gaetz told reporters after the vote ended McCarthy’s term as speaker. “So I guess we did.”
In addition to the satisfaction of seeing McCarthy sidelined, the move also seems to have generated an infusion of cash for Gaetz. According to Politico, six of the eight Republican House members who voted to oust McCarthy saw an increase in small-dollar fundraising over the next quarter. Gaetz had a quarter-over-quarter jump of $725,000 from donors giving under $200.
In December, the angry and humiliated McCarthy resigned from the House. But even though Gaetz won the battle, McCarthy doesn’t seem to be finished with the war.
Vanity Fair describes McCarthy as “out for blood,” and Politico says he is overseeing an effort to find primary challengers for the “Gaetz Eight.”
The New Republic calls it McCarthy’s “revenge tour” and says he knows exactly who he is targeting first: Reps. Nancy Mace, Bob Good, and Eli Crane. McCarthy’s allies judge these three to be the most vulnerable. Mace may be at the front of the line because she is described as having been a member of McCarthy’s “inner circle” before she voted for his removal.
After being removed from office and resigning from the House, McCarthy may seem to be a less-than-fearsome opponent when it comes to launching a campaign of revenge. However, previous to his ouster, he was known as the Republican’s best fundraiser. According to The New Republic, McCarthy is still able to tap his donor network to power primary challenges to those against the Republicans on his hit list. There are even indications that McCarthy’s vengeance tour could continue beyond this election cycle, as he works his way through Gaetz’s supporters.
Whether or not McCarthy is successful, the idea that the best Republican fundraiser is busy raising funds to take down Republican incumbents seems like a very good thing for Democrats, as well as another battle in the Republican’s intraparty warfare.
Maybe McCarthy should pick up a yellow jumpsuit and a katana.
EMILY's List has been devoted to electing pro-choice Democratic women for 40 years, a mission that's grown only more critical since the fall of Roe. Joining us on "The Downballot" this week is Christina Reynolds, one of EMILY's top officials, to tell us about how her organization recruits, supports, and advises women candidates at all levels of the ballot nationwide. Reynolds explains the unique challenges women face, from a lack of fundraising networks to judgments about their qualifications that never seem to stick to men. She tells us how Dobbs has—and hasn't—changed campaigning for EMILY's endorsees and spotlights a wide range of key races the group is involved in this year.