At the height of the controversy surrounding Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and the revelations that he’s under investigation for sex trafficking, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) bet big on a nationwide joint fundraising tour with her embattled colleague. But new campaign filings show that not only did the gamble not pay off, but that the much-maligned Republicans actually spent four times as much as they raised.
Greene, the House GOP’s top fundraiser, is now faced with a decision: She can continue to join forces with her beleaguered ally at the expense of her campaign war chest, or she can cut bait and let Gaetz fend for himself.
Since Gaetz and Greene kicked off their joint fundraising committee with a May 7 event at The Villages in central Florida, their campaigns and joint fundraising committee have posted a combined loss of $342,000. And according to recent filings with the Federal Election Commission, that joint fundraising effort, “Put America First,” reported only $59,345.54 in contributions.
That sort of meager haul would be fine for a dinner or one-time event, but Gaetz and Greene have repeatedly held high-profile events and spent a whopping $287,036.19 to hold them—meaning they’re in the hole by more than $225,000.
Both Gaetz and Greene contributed $150,000 apiece from their own campaigns to the joint fundraising committee. And they’ve raised money almost entirely from small-dollar donors. Only four people gave $500 or more to the shared committee. But their campaign tour of some of the most Trump-friendly areas in the nation has been inordinately expensive.
In fact, the big winner from the Gaetz and Greene barnstorming appears to be Gaetz’s PR firm.
The Logan Circle Group, which the campaign hired in early April, made off with more than a million dollars in the second quarter of 2021. While the majority of that money came from Gaetz—$825,000 over the course of one month—the firm nudged past the million-dollar mark with the $250,000 it received from Put America First. Those payments, nearly 90 percent of the committee’s total budget, were for “event production and management,” according to FEC filings.
A Gaetz campaign spokesperson told The Daily Beast that all donations raised on the tour had gone to Put America First. Asked again if that was correct, the spokesperson said it was. Upon double-checking with the campaign’s finance team, the spokesperson would only say that, “Our filings speak for themselves.”
But if the filings speak for themselves, then they’re not saying many good things.
Individually, Gaetz and Greene raised $1.34 million and $1.31 million in the second quarter of 2021, respectively. Those totals are certainly impressive, and Gaetz and Greene could argue that the publicity from their circuit is helping them fundraise individually. Except, they’re not making that argument, and both candidates have actually raised less in this most recent quarter than they did in the first.
Gaetz slipped from $1.82 million in the first months of the year, his personal best. He also spent $1.95 million along the way, the majority of it on fundraising and a pricey public relations scramble to push back against reports about the investigation.
But Greene—whose campaign is easily the biggest money draw among the House GOP—plummeted, coming $1.9 million short of her eye-popping $3.2 million first-quarter haul. After expenses, including travel and fundraising costs, she closed the second quarter with only a $300,000 net gain. She had ended the first quarter up $1.8 million.
A Gaetz spokesperson—who was not affiliated with the Logan Circle Group—defended the three-term congressman’s fundraising performance.
“Despite an endless stream of lies from the media, Congressman Gaetz continues to be among the most prodigious fundraisers in Congress and is the only Republican who doesn’t accept donations from federal lobbyists or PACs,” the spokesperson said in a text message. Gaetz, a three-term congressman representing a deep-red district in the Florida panhandle, hadn’t raised more than a million dollars in a quarter until October 2020.
“He thanks his tens of thousands of donors and promises to always fight for them,” this spokesperson added.
Greene and Gaetz, arguably the two most controversial House Republicans, were united this spring by scandals that had not only alienated them from the mainstream, but left them isolated within their own party.
At the time, Gaetz was the focus of a string of media reports revealing details about his role in a federal sex crimes investigation, which in addition to the trafficking allegations reportedly extends to a sweeping public corruption probe.
Soon after The New York Times broke the news of the investigation, Gaetz—a self-identifying “Florida man” who wears his loneliness among D.C. colleagues as a badge of courage—found himself even further marooned politically. Only Greene and longtime ally Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) were willing to speak up in his defense.
“When I first got to Washington, the party leaders said ‘Gaetz, it seems to us you’re not really a team player,’ and I said ‘I am, but you’re not my team,’” Gaetz told supporters in his district the day before the Times story ran.
Greene, for her part, had just been bitten twice by her GOP colleagues. In February, House Republicans stripped the conspiracy theorist of her committees, and in April, she was forced to cancel her proposed “America First” caucus amid criticism for its white nationalist rhetoric. Gaetz had signed on to the caucus, and the pair later applied the same moniker to their tour.
Two months in, however, their joint effort appears primarily concerned with fighting gravity. Venues have canceled events in response to public outcry, and after the launch at The Villages the media has largely ignored their whistle-stops.
But Greene, who has shown GOP leadership her value as a fundraising powerhouse, still apparently sees reason to go forward, at least according to the Gaetz campaign. A spokesperson for the Florida Republican told The Daily Beast that Greene had personally committed to future events benefiting the joint committee.
“Congressman Gaetz and Congresswoman Greene look forward to announcing new stops on the America First tour in the coming weeks,” the spokesperson said.
The Greene campaign did not reply to The Daily Beast’s request for comment.