Florida Republican’s campaign committee Matt Gaetz paid at least $ 20,000 to a company the Justice Department claims was used by GOP politician Roger Stone and his wife to avoid taxes, such as campaign funding reports showed.
Gaetz’s campaign paid Drake Ventures LLC for Strategic Campaign Consulting between March and May, according to the quarterly filings of the Federal Electoral Commission committee, the latest of which was released Thursday.
That filing showed that the campaign raised approximately $ 1.45 million and spent more than $ 1.9 million between April and June, and also revealed that more than $ 825,000 was spent on the Logan Circle Group , who hired PR firm Gaetz when news surfaced that he was involved in a federal investigation into sex trafficking. Gaetz is not charged with criminal law and denies any wrongdoing.
Gaetz’s campaign also paid $ 50,000 in legal fees for the quarter, half of which went to the law firm of Marc Fernich, the defense attorney whose notable clients include the late sex criminal Jeffrey Epstein, convicted drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and the long-dead belong gang boss John Gotti.
The Gaetz campaign paid Stone’s company in four separate portions of $ 5,000, the documents showed. The FEC filings list a Fort Lauderdale address for Drake Ventures associated with Stone, who lives near the coastal city of Florida.
The first of those rates came in late March, less than a week before the New York Times first reported that the Justice Department was investigating whether Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and was paying for her travel with him. Three days after the news broke, a second payment of $ 5,000 was made to Stone.
The other two payments came after the DOJ filed a civil lawsuit against Stone and his wife Nydia Stone in mid-April alleging the couple used Drake Ventures as an “alter ego” to “protect their personal income from foreclosure.” “Fund a lavish lifestyle.”
“They used Drake Ventures to obtain payments to be made to Roger Stone personally to pay for their personal expenses, protect their assets and avoid reporting taxable income to the IRS,” the DOJ wrote in its appeal .
The Stones owe nearly $ 2 million in unpaid federal taxes and other fees, the DOJ alleged in the lawsuit filed in Fort Lauderdale federal district court.
Federal prosecutors also accused the Stones of “defrauding the United States” by using assets in Drake Ventures’ accounts to buy their home on behalf of a separate trust.
Stone has described the lawsuit as “politically motivated”.
“Our FEC filings speak for themselves,” said a Gaetz spokesman on Thursday evening in an email to CNBC. “Despite an endless barrage of lies from the media, Congressman Gaetz continues to be one of the greatest fundraisers in Congress and the only Republican not to accept donations from federal lobbyists or PACs. He thanks his tens of thousands of donors and pledges “to always fight for them.”
Hardly any information was given about the company’s “strategic campaign advice” for the Gaetz campaign.
“I’m not interested in talking about the case or anything on record,” said Brian Harris, an attorney representing Stone and Drake Ventures on the DOJ lawsuit, in a brief phone call with CNBC before hanging up .
Stone did not respond to CNBC’s inquiries about Gaetz’s campaign committee payments. Two other attorneys representing the Stones and Drake Ventures, Derick Vollrath and Jeffrey Neiman, made no comment.
Stone and Gaetz are both Florida based and both are loyal to former President Donald Trump, who has lived at his Palm Beach golf club since leaving office in January.
In late December, Trump pardoned 68-year-old Stone, who had been convicted of lying to Congress under oath.
– CNBC’s Brian Schwartz contributed to this report.