Matthew Louis Gaetz II (// "gates"; born May 7, 1982) is an American attorney who has served as the U.S. Representative for Florida's 1st congressional district since 2017, where he is a member of the Budget, Armed Services, and Judiciary Committees. The district covers most of the western Panhandle, including Pensacola and his home in Fort Walton Beach. He is a member of the Republican Party.
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Florida's 1st district
|Assumed office |
January 3, 2017
|Preceded by||Jeff Miller|
|Member of the Florida House of Representatives|
from the 4th district
April 13, 2010 – November 8, 2016
|Preceded by||Ray Sansom|
|Succeeded by||Mel Ponder|
Matthew Louis Gaetz II
May 7, 1982
Hollywood, Florida, U.S.
|Education||Florida State University (BS)|
College of William and Mary (JD)
Prior to serving in Congress he was a member of the Florida House of Representatives, representing the 4th District, which includes most of Okaloosa County, from 2010 to 2016. He has also worked as an attorney in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. He is currently under investigation by The Florida Bar for allegedly intimidating a witness.
Early life and education
Gaetz was born in Hollywood, Florida, to Victoria "Vicky" (Quertermous) and politician Don Gaetz, and grew up in the Fort Walton Beach area of Florida. He graduated from Florida State University in 2003 and from The College of William and Mary in 2007 with a J.D.. His father Don represented parts of Northwest Florida as a member of the Florida State Senate from 2006 to 2016 and served as Senate President from 2012 to 2014. Gaetz's grandfather, Jerry Gaetz, was the mayor of Rugby, North Dakota and a candidate for Lieutenant Governor of North Dakota at the 1964 North Dakota Republican Party state convention, where he died of a heart attack.
Florida House of Representatives
In 2010, following the resignation of Republican State Representative Ray Sansom due to corruption charges, Gaetz ran in the special election to succeed Sansom in the 4th District, which included southern Santa Rosa County and Okaloosa County. In a crowded Republican primary that included Craig Barker, Kabe Woods, Jerry G. Melvin, and Bill Garvie, Gaetz won with 43% of the vote. In the special general election, Gaetz defeated Democratic nominee Jan Fernald, winning 66% of the vote. He was unopposed for a full term in 2010. In 2012, following the reconfiguration of Florida House of Representatives districts, Gaetz's district no longer contained any of Santa Rosa County. He was reelected, unopposed, in 2012 and 2014.
While serving in the state house, Gaetz joined with State Senator Joe Negron to propose legislation "designed to accelerate the execution of many of the 404 inmates on Florida's death row" by requiring the Governor to sign a death warrant for those inmates who have exhausted their appeals, noting, "Only God can judge. But we can sure set up the meeting." He also joined forces with State Senator Greg Evers to propose legislation that eliminated the federal ethanol content mandate that 10% of gasoline sold in Florida contain ethanol; the legislation was signed by Governor Rick Scott in May 2013.
Following the trial of George Zimmerman for the shooting of Trayvon Martin, Will Weatherford, the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, announced that he would order hearings on the "stand-your-ground" law that was raised as an issue during the trial. Gaetz, the Chairman of the Criminal Justice Subcommittee, was tasked with reviewing the legislation, and announced before hearings that he would not support changing "one damn comma," though he indicated that he would listen to both sides' testimony during the hearings. Following the conclusion of the hearings, he authored legislation that would allow defendants who successfully used a "stand your ground" defense during their trial "to apply for a 'certificate of eligibility' to expunge information related to 'stand your ground' from their criminal records."
When his subcommittee was considering legislation that would "keep mug shots of people who are charged with crimes off the Internet until they are convicted," Gaetz brought up his 2008 arrest for driving under the influence, arguing that his mistakes made him who he is and that publicly available mug shots "could be a problem for those unaccustomed to publicity."
2016 Florida Senate and U.S. House races
In 2013, Gaetz announced that in 2016 he would run for the 1st District state senate seat then held by his father, State Senator Don Gaetz, who was due to be term-limited out of the Senate in 2016. On March 21, 2016, Gaetz withdrew from the state race, choosing instead to run for the U.S. House seat representing Florida's 1st congressional district; the incumbent, Jeff Miller, had announced eleven days earlier that he would not seek reelection.
On August 30, 2016, Gaetz won the Republican primary with 35.7% of the vote – defeating Greg Evers (21.5%), Cris Dosev (20.6%), and five other candidates. This virtually assured Gaetz of victory in the general election. The 1st District is the most Republican in Florida, and one of the most Republican in the nation. In the November 8, 2016, general election, Gaetz defeated Democratic candidate Steven Specht with 69 percent of the vote.
U.S. House of Representatives
On September 25, 2016, following the death of Miami Marlins' pitcher José Fernández, Gaetz criticized the athletes protesting during the national anthem in a tweet: "To all who will kneel during the anthem today – just remember how José Fernández risked his life just for the chance to stand for it".
- Committee on Armed Services
- Committee on the Budget
- Committee on the Judiciary
- Republican Study Committee
Gaetz has been called "one of the most pro-gun members to have ever served in the Florida Legislature" by former NRA president Marion Hammer. Gaetz is a "Lifetime Member" of the NRA, and has an A+ rating from the NRA—its highest rating.
When Gaetz served in the Florida House of Representatives, he led an effort to allow Floridians with concealed-weapons permits to carry those weapons openly in public, which was ultimately unsuccessful. In lobbying for the passage of the bill, Gaetz said that the open carry of weapons was a right "granted not by government but by God." Gaetz supports Florida's stand-your-ground law and supported legislation that strengthened it against legal challenges. Gaetz also supports concealed carry reciprocity.
Special Counsel investigation
In November 2017 Gaetz introduced a congressional resolution calling for Robert Mueller to recuse himself as Special Counsel because of what were said to be conflicts of interest. In the resolution Gaetz also asked for a Special Counsel investigation into the handling of the Hillary Clinton email controversy by the FBI, undue interference by Attorney General Loretta Lynch in the investigation, and the acquisition of Uranium One by the Russian state corporation Rosatom during Mueller's time as FBI director. Gaetz stated that he did not trust Mueller to lead the investigation because of Mueller's alleged involvement in approval of the Uranium One deal and Mueller's close relationship with the dismissed FBI director James Comey, a probable person of interest in a proposed new investigation.
After Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan's denial that he was aware of the sexual abuse of Ohio State University wrestlers during the period when Jordan was a coach there, Gaetz said that the allegations came from people in the "Deep State" and were intended to reduce the credibility of Jordan's criticism of Mueller's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections.
Gaetz supports rescheduling cannabis from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule III drug, enabling further research and expanded use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. In 2015 he sponsored a House bill to expand Florida's Right to Try Act to include medical marijuana. The bill as amended was approved by the governor in March 2016. In September 2017, Gaetz keynoted the American Medical Marijuana Physicians Association's annual conference.
On February 23, 2017, Gaetz, worried about protesters disrupting his speaking at his town hall in Pace, Florida, prepared what his staffers called "the 'non-verbal town hall,' reminiscent of a scene from the movie Love Actually. Gaetz printed out part of his speech onto giant boards that he would hold up if he was unable to get a word in." One of the signs prepared for Gaetz had the words "Professional Liberal Protestors". Gaetz arrived 30 minutes late to the town hall meeting, where he faced at least 500 constituents crowded into the Oops Bowling Alley. At the meeting he was grilled about his relationship with Donald Trump, his stance on repealing the Affordable Care Act, and his proposal to abolish the EPA. He surprised the audience and got a round of applause when he said, "Absolutely, Donald Trump should release his tax returns." But he stopped short of saying Congress should subpoena those returns. Gaetz closed his town hall by shouting "Make America Great Again" over roaring opposition from the crowd.
In April 2018, Politico described Gaetz as "one of the most enthusiastic defenders of President Trump on cable news" and a "proud Trump protege". Aaron Blake of The Washington Post referred to him as one of Congress's "most controversial members," and one who has "unabashedly aligned himself with Trump on basically all things."
Gaetz voted in support of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. He acknowledged that the bill's pass-through tax deduction would benefit President Trump, and added, "but so many Americans benefit when commercial real estate becomes easier and more accessible."
In 2016, Gaetz acknowledged global warming but said he disagrees with the scientific consensus on climate change that human activity is the primary cause. Gaetz said "In our fervor to protect the environment, we lose sight of economic and scientific reality." In April 2017, the Center for American Progress and Vice Media said Gaetz was a climate change denier, citing his 2016 statements. In November 2017 Gaetz joined the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus. He said, "I don't think there's a scientific debate left to be had on if it is happening. I also think history is going to judge very harshly climate change deniers, and I don't want to be one of them." He said that he advocates technological innovation and economic incentives that address climate change, and increased federal funds for global warming research by NASA, NOAA and universities, but that he remains opposed to increased environmental regulation.
In 2017, Gaetz proposed legislation to "completely abolish" the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). He said, "our small businesses cannot afford to cover the costs associated with compliance, too often leading to closed doors and unemployed Americans. It is time to take back our legislative power from the EPA and abolish it permanently."
In October 2017, Gaetz said that the Medicaid expansion fueled the opioid crisis. PolitiFact rated the claim as "mostly false", noting that "experts were universal in saying that the evidence that Medicaid expansion is somehow fueling the opioid crisis doesn't exist."
Gaetz opposes sanctuary cities, which opt not to dedicate local law enforcement resources to prosecuting people solely for being undocumented. Upon announcing his run for Congress in 2016, Gaetz declared that illegal immigrants are "sucking us dry." In January 2018 Gaetz defended an alleged controversial comment on Haiti by Trump, saying that Haiti was in a "disgusting" condition.
As a Florida State Representative in 2015 Gaetz co-authored an amendment with Democratic Rep. David Richardson to repeal the state's 38-year old ban on gay adoption. The amendment was adopted and the larger adoption incentive bill (HB7013) passed the Florida House of Representatives on a 68-50 vote. The bill then went to the Florida State Senate, where there was pressure by some conservative lawmakers who wanted the amendment taken out. There, his father State Senator Don Gaetz led the bill to passage. The elder Gaetz later revealed that it was Matt who "sat him down" and gave him perspective on the bill as a younger person, urging that Republicans shouldn't block it. The bill was signed by Governor Rick Scott later that year.
Issues and controversies
In its July–August 2017 issue, Foreign Policy reported that Devin Murphy, a Gaetz legislative aide, had written a resolution that Gaetz brought to the House Judiciary Committee using primarily content from /r/The Donald, "a pro-Trump subreddit notorious for both its embrace of conspiracy theories and its gleeful offensiveness." One of the allegations was that James Comey had leaked investigative matters to New York Times reporter Michael S. Schmidt, beginning when Schmidt would have been around 10 years old. In an email to Wired magazine, Gaetz said, "It is the responsibility of our staff to gather as much information as possible when researching a subject and provide that information for consideration. We pride ourselves on seeking as much citizen input as possible." The /r/The_Donald posters' suggestions are represented in "roughly two-thirds of the total finished amendment."
In January 2018, Gaetz invited alt-right Holocaust denier Charles C. "Chuck" Johnson to attend President Donald Trump's State of the Union address. Gaetz said that he had no "pre-existing" relationship with Johnson and only invited him to attend when Johnson showed up at his office, providing him the ticket which Gaetz's father could not use due to his bronchitis. According to Johnson, he was invited by several members of Congress but “took Gaetz’s invitation” because “he’s into stuff on the issues that I care about.” Johnson had previously raised money for the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer. Gaetz said in an interview that Johnson was “not a Holocaust denier, he’s not a white supremacist”.
Drunk driving arrest and speeding tickets
In 2008, Gaetz was arrested for a DUI as he was driving back from the Swamp, a nightclub on Okaloosa Island, Florida. Although during the arrest he refused to take a breathalyzer test, the Tampa Bay Times reported "he didn't have his license suspended for a year when he refused the breath test — as Florida law dictates. And he didn't have that refusal used against him in a criminal proceeding." Charges against him were dismissed, despite the fact that the police reported "Gaetz fumbled for his license and registration, his eyes were watery and bloodshot, and he swayed and staggered when he got out of the car." Gaetz cited the dropped charges as proof that he was innocent.
Between 1999 and 2014, Gaetz received 16 speeding tickets in Florida.
Apparent threat directed at Michael Cohen
On February 26, 2019 – the night before the scheduled public hearing of Michael Cohen, Donald Trump's former personal attorney, before the House Oversight Committee – Gaetz directed a tweet toward Cohen that implied without evidence that Cohen had had multiple extra-marital affairs and also suggested his wife might be unfaithful while he was imprisoned due to new information disclosed to her. The tweet was seen by other members of Congress as an attempt to intimidate a witness. After their sharp criticism – and an "implicit rebuke" by House Speaker Pelosi – Gaetz deleted the tweet and posted a tweet in which he apologized. During the hearing, Oversight Committee member Stacey Plaskett, a Democrat, emphasized her background as a prosecutor and counsel on House ethics and recommended that Gaetz be referred to both the House Ethics Committee and criminal prosecutors over witness intimidation and tampering. Following the tweet, The Florida Bar opened an investigation into Gaetz.
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- Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that a special counsel should be appointed by the Attorney General or his designee to investigate misconduct by former Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James B. Comey with regard to the investigation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for mishandling of classified data and use of an unauthorized email server. at Congress.gov
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- Congressman Matt Gaetz official U.S. House site
- Campaign website
- Matt Gaetz at Curlie
- Biography at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Profile at Vote Smart
- Financial information (federal office) at the Federal Election Commission
- Legislation sponsored at the Library of Congress
- Appearances on C-SPAN
|U.S. House of Representatives|
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Florida's 1st congressional district
|U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
| United States Representatives by seniority