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Hard-right Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) took a victory lap Thursday after it was revealed that an ethics complaint against him had been unanimously rejected last month.
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) had received an allegation that the 41-year-old’s congressional campaign had wrongly footed the bill for roughly $200,000 in legal fees between November 2020 and October 2021.
At the time, Gaetz was embroiled in a Justice Department investigation into alleged sex trafficking that wrapped up this past February with no charges against the lawmaker.
A FEC filing shows that the commission closed the ethics case against Gaetz Aug. 8, concluding unanimously that there was no evidence he had been improperly “converting campaign funds to personal use.”
“Exonerated. Again. 5-0 vote,” Gaetz exclaimed on X, formerly Twitter, after the filing was first reported by Politico.
Gaetz’s crowing over the so-called “exoneration” came amid his latest high-profile spat with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
On Tuesday, when the House gaveled back into session following a six-week recess, Gaetz threatened to file a motion to vacate the chair, which under current House rules require only a single member’s proposal to receive a vote.
McCarthy, who initially vented “Matt’s Matt” in response to the challenge, insinuated that the Florida congressman’s crusade against him was motivated by the speaker’s refusal to intervene in a separate House ethics probe.
“Matt is upset about an ethics complaint. I don’t care what they threaten against me. I am not going to interject into an independent committee like Ethics,” McCarthy told reporters.
Gaetz, in response, disputed McCarthy’s insinuatiuon.
“This is about term limits, a balanced budget amendment, and single-subject spending bills, just like I’ve been saying for an entire year,” the Floridian told MSNBC Wednesday.
“I am the most investigated man in the entire Congress. And right there you saw Kevin McCarthy right there lie like a dead dog, because I have never asked him to interfere at any ethics matter,” he added.
Earlier this year, during a 15-ballot marathon to determine who would hold the speaker’s gavel, McCarthy agreed to lower the threshold for a motion to vacate to one vote, appearing GOP caucus hardliners.
A defiant McCarthy dared members to oust him during a closed-door meeting Thursday morning, according to Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.), who was in attendance.
“’If you want to file a motion to vacate, then file a f–king motion,’” McCarthy (R-Calif.), 58, told his conference, according to Mast.
McCarthy is grappling with a rambunctious caucus as he seeks to navigate his party through the appropriations process.
Congress has until Sept. 30 to approve a funding bill preventing a partial government shutdown.