Matt Gaetz did not properly disclose his appalling book sales

Amid a Justice Department investigation into alleged sex crimes and a related House ethics probe, besieged Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL) appears to have committed at least one federal violation much smaller but simpler: the failure to disclose how much money he made from a book he published last September.

When The Daily Beast inquired about the omission last week, a Gaetz spokesperson said the office needed “further documents” from the publisher and was “in the process of receiving this information. and change the member’s financial disclosure. Sure enough, an amended financial disclosure was filed three days after The Daily Beast requested information on undisclosed book income.

Gaetz’s spokesperson did not respond to follow-up questions about the nature of the documents and why Gaetz did not have them when he filed his original disclosure several days before the deadline.

“The law clearly states that accounting royalty income must be disclosed. Indeed, it is difficult to think of a recent example where a legislator did not disclose such income.“

– Kedric Payne, General Counsel and Senior Ethics Director at Campaign Legal Center

But the amendment itself raises its own questions. Gaetz said his publishing deal gave him 60% royalties, a portion normally reserved for online sales of self-published works by distributors, and more than double the usual royalty rates for hard covers. House rules require lawmakers to ask ethics officials for permission to accept royalties, which can be granted if the publishing deal meets “usual and customary contractual terms.”

Gaetz’s book, Brandon, went on presale last August and hit shelves and online stores in September, past last year’s financial disclosure deadline. The new amended disclosure claims the besieged Florida conservative made exactly $ 25,000 from the sale of books last year, after giving 30 percent of his personal profits to his agent, Sergio Gor, a former member of Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), who also officiated and DJ at Gaetz’s surprise wedding last weekend.

If Gaetz’s claim for $ 25,000 and the terms of publication are correct, the disclosure states Brandon didn’t exactly burn the cards. Its reported profits suggest that the memoir grossed a total of around $ 59,500 between August and December, earning its contract publisher, Post Hill Press, just under $ 15,000.

Hardcover copies were originally listed for $ 27 – newer ones are now under $ 10 – and you can still purchase an ebook for $ 14.99. To match its disclosure, a price of $ 27 would equate to approximately 2,200 units sold. But even at the low end of the $ 10 a pop range, Gaetz would have sold less than 6,000 copies of Brandon over several months.

Kedric Payne, general counsel and senior ethics director at the Campaign Legal Center, told the Daily Beast he can’t remember when a member failed to report income from a book, but noted that the immediate correction de Gaetz would probably save him repercussions.

“The law clearly states that the revenue from accounting royalties must be disclosed. Indeed, it is difficult to think of a recent example where a lawmaker did not disclose such income, ”Payne said. “In practice, it is not intended that the ethics committee will seek sanctions against a member who tables an amendment in these circumstances.”

Payne added that “more facts” were needed to determine whether the deal justified such repercussions.

Representative Matt Gaetz attends a protest in support of pop star Britney Spears.

Mario Anzuoni / Reuters

Brett Kappel, a government compliance attorney at Harmon Curran, echoed these points.

“Filing an incomplete financial disclosure report is a violation of both the ethics of government law and the rules of the House,” Kappel said. “The fact that Representative Gaetz promptly filed an amended report likely means he will not suffer any consequences.”

And Bryson Morgan, a former Congressional Ethics Office investigative adviser who now practices political compliance law at Caplin & Drysdale, pointed out that the disclosure rules also cover advance royalties.

“It appears that Congressman Gaetz did not disclose his interest in the book and the income he received from the book as required by federal law,” Morgan said after reviewing Gaetz’s disclosures. “The House Ethics Committee has issued specific guidance to members of Congress on how book transactions – including agreements for future royalties to be paid – should be reported on the annual disclosure form. , so that Mr. Gaetz was advised that disclosure was required. “

Bombardier Books – the Post Hill publisher who published the book – did not answer questions from the Daily Beast, nor did distributor Simon & Schuster. The House Ethics Committee and Congressional Ethics Office also declined to comment.

While Brandon was not at the top of bestseller lists, Gaetz’s promotional efforts were bolstered by a number of MAGA associates, including Donald Trump Jr. and Sean Hannity. (The Gaetz campaign in 2018 spent around $ 11,000 on Trump Jr.’s first book) The self-described Florida man also scored two coveted Twitter takes from then-President Donald Trump , including for early orders last August.

As The Daily Beast reported, Trump’s White House blocked Gaetz’s attempts at preventive pardon. The besieged congressman also apparently interfered in a parallel effort by his indicted friend Joel Greenberg, who wrote Trump a confession letter accusing Gaetz of paying for sex with a 17-year-old girl – the allegation the most explosive linked to the ongoing investigation. Last May, Greenberg struck a plea deal with federal prosecutors.

The investigation threw some Brandon passages in a new light. In the book, structured as a series of MAGAverse insider “dispatches”, Gaetz details his “active social life,” including his sexual encounters as a “fun-loving politician” in Trump’s Washington.

“It’s risky going out in a city where there is potentially a thin line between love and blackmail, or at least love and bad PR,” Gaetz wrote, adding: “I knew when I walked in how many people had been shot dead by sexual missteps in this town, so I made some rules to help me err on the side of safety. “

“In Washington, safe sex means, in part: no dating lobbyists, no meeting with your staff, and I should have added no dating reporter, but I didn’t in the beginning.” , he wrote. The three-term rep also rolled out his worn-out “I’m a rep, not a monk” line, which he has used since at least 2013, including in an April editorial to defend against allegations of sex trafficking.

Gaetz also wrote about a New Years Eve 2019 trip to Key West with two “best friends” who were interviewed as part of the sex trafficking investigation. The passage includes a meditation on a condom wrap with a bee image on it, captioned “Cover your sting,” which Gaetz claims to have obtained from the Key West airport and serves as an extended metaphor for romantic desperation.