Matt Gaetz and what we know about why his congressional colleagues seem to detest him

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Last month, a poll showed that 57% of Florida voters disapproved of the performance of U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, the state's 1st District Congressman.

Now it appears that many of his coworkers don't like him much, either.

Fresh from expelling former Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y. after his investigation by the House Ethics Committee several Republican House members have started talking about doing the same to Gaetz after his own ethics investigation comes out, according to one House Republican who spoke to USA TODAY on the condition of anonymity.

GOP lawmakers, the Republican said, are much more “excited” to expel Gaetz than Santos if the House Ethics Committee releases a report that is just as damning for Gaetz as it was for the New York Republican.

“If there’s anything in there that’s bad, I can guarantee people will have their fangs out. He is hated in our conference,” the Republican said of the GOP conference’s attitude towards Gaetz. “If he comes back as guilty in this ethics thing, I think he’s in trouble.”

Why do some of Gaetz's own party want him gone? Here’s what to know about the U.S. Congressman.

Who is Matt Gaetz?

Matthew Louis Gaetz, 41, is the current U.S. representative for Florida’s 1st congressional district and a lawyer. Born in Hollywood, Florida, Gaetz was raised in the Panhandle in a house familiar to Jim Carrey fans: it was the one used in the movie "The Truman Show," Gaetz said in the HBO documentary "The Swamp."

Gaetz is the son of Don Gaetz, a former hospice company founder and prominent Florida politician who served as a member of the Florida State Senate from 2006 to 2016 and served as the Senate president from 2012 to 2014.

Gaetz graduated from Niceville High School and went on to get a Bachelor of Science in interdisciplinary sciences from Florida State University in 2003 and a Juris Doctor from the William & Mary Law School in 2007. He was admitted to the Florida Bar in 2008 and is a member in good standing although he was briefly considered delinquent for having failed to pay $465 in bar fees and later reinstated.

In 2010 he succeeded Rep. Ray Sansom as state representative in the 4th district in a special election after Sansom, the former Florida House Speaker, resigned on corruption charges and won again in the general election. He ran unopposed in 2010, 2012 and 2014, and then ran for the U.S. House in 2016, representing the 1st district. According to the Center for Effective Lawmaking (CEL) from the University of Virginia and Vanderbilt University, Gaetz ranked as the second-least effective Florida lawmaker in Congress when it came to moving and passing bills.

Matt Gaetz and his fiance, Ginger Luckey, at the White House in December.
Matt Gaetz and his fiance, Ginger Luckey, at the White House in December.

Matt Gaetz is married to Ginger Luckey, the sister of Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey. Gaetz and Luckey announced their engagement in December 2020 and married in August 2021.

Does Matt Gaetz have any children?

In June 2020, Gaetz announced on Twitter that he has a teenage son named Nestor, whom he claims to have raised for the past six years. Gaetz has no blood relation to Nestor Galban, of Cuba, who is referred to as one of two "local students" he worked with while in Tallahassee in 2016, according to a 2020 Pensacola News Journal story. They currently live in Fort Walton Beach.

What is Matt Gaetz’s net worth?

Estimates place Matt Gaetz’s net worth anywhere around $235,000 though there are unconfirmed reports that he may be worth much more.

On Gaetz’s latest Congressional disclosure form, his reported assets ranged between $235,000-$625,000. The form requires representatives to report most of their holdings, though not all of them.

Gaetz does come from a wealthy family. His parents, Don and Victoria Gaetz, had a reported net worth of $29.6 million, according to a document he submitted to Florida’s ethics commission in June 2020.

Why is Matt Gaetz controversial?

Gaetz's career has seemingly been one controversy after another, starting with a 2008 DUI charge that was subsequently dropped (between 1999 and 2014 he racked up 17 traffic tickets). He became embroiled in more controversy after Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election and Gaetz positioned himself as one of his biggest supporters.

Gaetz quickly developed a reputation for controversial statements, inviting political feuds and getting on FOX News, even naming his podcast and his 2020 book "Firebrand."

Gaetz tried to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency

One of his first acts as a congressman was introducing legislation in February 2017 that would abolish the Environmental Protection Agency. The proposal garnered very little support from his colleagues and stalled on the House floor, but it made national headlines nonetheless.

Gaetz cast lone no vote on anti-human trafficking bill

Later that year in December, Gaetz cast the lone no vote on an anti-human trafficking bill that easily sailed through both houses of Congress on Dec. 19. Gaetz said at the time, from a Facebook Live session in his living room, that he voted no because, despite best intentions of the bill, it represented "mission creep" at the federal level in creating the committee.

Gaetz invited alt-right activist and racist internet troll to State of the Union

In February 2018, Gaetz was once again under fire for inviting an infamous alt-right activist and racist internet troll Chuck Johnson to the State of the Union address in Washington D.C. Gaetz claimed at the time he had no idea who Johnson was and he gave him a ticket after he showed up at Gaetz's office before the speech Tuesday.

Gaetz was accused of witness intimidation over Michael Cohen tweet

Some members of Congress accused Gaetz of attempting to intimidate a witness on Feb. 26, 2019, when he sent out a tweet about Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen that implied he had multiple extramarital affairs and suggested his wife might be unfaithful while he was imprisoned due to new information disclosed to her. Gaetz eventually deleted the tweet and apologized.

Gaetz crashes Cohen’s hearing

Gaetz continued to make headlines while Cohen was in the media spotlight when he crashed the House Oversight Committee’s hearing with Cohen. Gaetz, claiming he only wanted to observe the hearing and ask questions, but was not part of the committee. Afterward, the House Ethics Committee and the Florida Bar Association opened an investigation into Gaetz over the aforementioned tweet. The state bar found no probable cause that Gaetz violated any rules in August 2019.

Gaetz announces he had a Cuban 'son' named Nestor

In June 2020, Gaetz sent shockwaves through social media in June when he announced he had a Cuban “son,” Nestor, who he claimed to have been raising for the past six years. Nestor is the biological brother of Gaetz's ex-girlfriend and he said at the time he was a "single dad."

Gaetz was accused of violating House ethics rules by using taxpayer money on speech-writing consultant

In 2020, Politico reported that Gaetz had improperly sent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars to a limited liability company linked to a speech-writing consultant who was removed from the Trump administration.

The report also noted that Gaetz may have used taxpayer money to build a private studio in his father’s home in Niceville and rent video equipment.

Gaetz used COVID-19 pandemic as excuse for absences

Gaetz along with dozens of other Republican House members were accused of citing the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to skip votes in February 2021. Gaetz and the others asked others to vote on their behalf while they instead attended the Conservative Political Action Conference, which took place at the same time as their absences.

Gaetz accused of having sexual relations with a 17-year-old girl

In March 2021, the New York Times broke the story that Gaetz was reportedly being investigated by the U.S. Justice Department over allegations that he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and paid for her travel.

The Times cited "three people briefed on the matter" who said investigators are examining whether Gaetz violated sex trafficking laws.

The news came just after a CNN report that alleged Gaetz had shown nude pictures of women he had slept with to other lawmakers on the House floor.

Gaetz responded to the report on his Twitter account Tuesday evening, later sending the statement to the Pensacola News Journal, alleging he was the victim of a former Justice Department official seeking $25 million payment.

"Matt Gaetz has never paid for sex,” the statement said. "Matt Gaetz refutes all the disgusting allegations completely. Matt Gaetz has never ever been on any such websites whatsoever. Matt Gaetz cherishes the relationships in his past and looks forward to marrying the love of his life."

Gaetz later mocked the scandal, calling it "Gaetzgate." The Justice Department ultimately decided not to charge Gaetz in February after investigators warned that two of the key witnesses were unreliable.

Gaetz was investigated for allegations of sexual misconduct, campaign finance violations, taking bribes, and using drugs

Following the announcement of the DOJ probe, the Democrat-led House Ethics Committee opened its own investigation.

"The Committee is aware of public allegations that Representative Matt Gaetz may have engaged in sexual misconduct and/or illicit drug use, shared inappropriate images or videos on the House floor, misused state identification records, converted campaign funds to personal use, and/or accepted a bribe, improper gratuity, or impermissible gift, in violation of House Rules, laws, or other standards of conduct," reads a statement from the House Ethics Committee.

The investigation deferred its investigations at the request of Justice Department so as not to interfere with its probe. In July, the now-Republican-led committee quietly relaunched the investigation, CNN reported.

Gaetz on the chopping block? House GOP members may expel Matt Gaetz if ethics investigation finds allegations credible

Gaetz led efforts to block Rep. Kevin McCarthy from becoming Speaker of the House

In January the country was witness to an increasingly awkward process as the House attempted to elect a new Speaker. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-CA, was the odds-on favorite but Gaetz led a revolt against him and brought enough votes to prevent McCarthy's win. It took a record 15 elections and a series of concessions to Gaetz and other hardline Republicans that left him in a precarious position.

Gaetz got Speaker McCarthy kicked out

As McCarthy struggled to avoid a government shutdown, Gaetz threatened to oust him if he attempted to negotiate a deal with Democrats to get votes on a bipartisan solution. Passing the funding deal became impossible with just Republicans as the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus, including Gaetz, continued to block McCarthy's efforts by insisting on deep funding cuts from government spending. Hours before the deadline, McCarthy and other Republicans carved out a temporary deal to keep the government going through Nov. 17.

Two days later, Gaetz introduced a motion to remove McCarthy as Speaker. McCarthy, now the first House Speaker ever removed by a motion to vacate, later accused Gaetz of getting him removed as revenge over the House ethics probe.

“I think it’s more personal. If the Ethics Committee never does anything to Gaetz, then Gaetz was successful in stopping what probably should rightfully come to him,” McCarthy said.

This led to more weeks of infighting among the fractured Republican House members to agree on another House Speaker during a time when lawmakers were trying to reach another temporary agreement to again avoid a government shutdown.

Is Gaetz next to go?

Now that the House Ethics Committee has started up its investigation into Gaetz again, House GOP members may be prepared to expel their fellow congressman if it comes back guilty. Several members have expressed complaints about Gaetz's ouster of McCarthy, his role as a hostage-taker in the public perception of House Republicans as being unable to govern during the Speaker elections, and his inappropriateness for the office.

“Matt Gaetz, to say he came here as a fiscal crusader, it’s more likely he came here for the teenage interns on Capitol Hill, to be honest,” Marc Short, former Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, told CNN.

Rep. Garret Graves, R-LA, told Semafor that there should be repercussions for McCarthy’s removal and claimed that Gaetz would make a “great dictator.”

"I think Matt would be a great dictator in a small island nation in the Pacific or something, that's probably the best next step for him,” he said.

Other Republicans have since come out to accuse Gaetz of treating the vote as a political stunt to gain more attention as Gaetz has begun spinning the vitriol against him to fundraise. In a recent closed-door conference meeting Gaetz stood up to speak, the anonymous House Republican said, but was yelled at by other GOP House members “to sit down and shut up.”

Gaetz still has his defenders and even some detractors who don't want to see this trend continue. Rep. Mike Lawler, R-N.Y., who has previously criticized Gaetz, warned against using the committee as a “political weapon or a bludgeon against somebody just because you don’t like them.”

Ken Tran, USA TODAY, contributed to this article.

Editor's note: Matt Gaetz's current Florida bar standing has been corrected.

This article originally appeared on Treasure Coast Newspapers: Matt Gaetz: Florida congressman under investigation, lacks approval