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Matt Gaetz money gets messy and Brian Fitzpatrick wants nothing to do with it

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), a big fan of Donald Trump, gave $2,000 last year to U.S. Rep Brian Fitzpatrick. (R-PA) Now Gaetz is under federal investigation and Fitzpatrick is giving away his money.

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R., Fla.) speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando in February.
U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R., Fla.) speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando in February.Read moreStephen M. Dowell / MCT

It seems like a strange match. But there it is in black and white.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, a sentient glob of hair gel from Florida known for ferociously defending Donald Trump on Fox News, gave $2,000 in September to Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, the low-key former FBI agent from Bucks County whose moderate image has left him as the last Republican standing in the Philly suburbs.

Gaetz made the donation in the heat of an election year, while Fitzpatrick’s district was among the most competitive in the country. Gaetz also gave $2,000 to South Jersey’s Democrat-turned-Republican Jeff Van Drew and Rep. Scott Perry, of York County, two leading members of the Trump fan club.

Now Fitzpatrick says he didn’t ask for the money. And he’s giving it away.

The move comes amid reports that Gaetz is under federal investigation over whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl, and that he had a habit of showing fellow lawmakers nude photos and videos of women he said he slept with.

Gaetz has denied having sex with a 17-year-old or paying for sex. And he used the scandal this week to raise more money and boost his stature, claiming to be so important that he’s worthy of a takedown.

Many Republicans — and Fox News — are now keeping their distance. That includes Fitzpatrick, who will still face a competitive race if he seeks another term next year, and this week was elected cochair of the centrist Problem Solvers Caucus.

The Gaetz money was an “unsolicited contribution” received as part of the GOP’s Patriot Program, which sought to boost the most vulnerable Republican House members, a Fitzpatrick spokesperson said, adding, “It is being donated to the Bucks County Police Memorial Project.”

Federal records show Fitzpatrick, Van Drew, and Perry weren’t the only ones to benefit from Gaetz’s support. The Floridian found time between TV hits (179 on Fox News alone, according to Forbes) to write $2,000 checks to 35 GOP colleagues in mid-September.

Clout asked the Van Drew and Perry camps about their Gaetz donations. They didn’t respond.

Perry and Fitzpatrick each remain top Democratic targets in 2022.

Protect Our Police PAC: Carlos Vega is not our guy

There was a time, less than three months ago, when it looked as if a political action committee launched by retired Philadelphia police officers would back Carlos Vega’s bid to deny District Attorney Larry Krasner a second term.

Now Protect Our Police PAC and Vega say they want nothing to do with each other. What happened?

The PAC put out a fund-raising email last week that blamed George Floyd for his own death and claimed former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes and is now charged with murder and on trial for his death, is innocent.

Vega denounced the group. Then-Protect Our Police president Nick Gerace apologized and said he fired the marketing firm that sent the email. Gerace did not identify the firm.

Now Gerace, who in January circulated polling commissioned by the group with a memo titled “Carlos Vega for Philadelphia DA,” said there will be no Vega endorsement. Instead, Gerace wrote in an email, the group “is laser-focused” on opposing Krasner.

Vega said he has no control over the group, which has received $80,000 from the Fraternal Order of Police since last summer. The police union, which has endorsed Vega, has given his campaign $25,200.

Krasner doesn’t buy the distancing.

“Why are they attacking me with these funds and not attacking Carlos Vega, who just denounced them?” Krasner asked Thursday. “We all know what’s actually going on here. They are all indirectly or directly working together.”

Daryl Metcalfe has a snowflake mug meltdown

Republican culture warriors were making a scene in Harrisburg this week, and State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, a likely suspect to show up in that type of scenario, was … not getting any attention. At all.

That may explain why Metcalfe, an ultraconservative Republican from Butler County, felt a compulsion to issue a nearly 500-word news release Tuesday about his prowess for owning the libs.

What motivated this? Metcalfe blamed a “suspicious gift bag” left outside his Capitol office that “contained a used-looking mug” emblazoned with the phrase “enjoy every snowflake.”

He didn’t identify the lawmaker caught on camera leaving the gift, but by his description, it could only be State Rep. Nancy Guenst, a freshman Democrat who represents parts of Montgomery County and Philadelphia.

Guenst copped to it for Clout, saying she thought Metcalfe had a sense of humor. That’s how new she is to Harrisburg. She laughed off Metcalfe’s tirade, noting she left the cup by his door on a Saturday a month ago.

She said the mug was used, not new: “I wasn’t going to spend money on him.”

Metcalfe’s treatise on the incident cited a 2018 Clout item that said “he’s been known to live rent-free in the antagonized minds of progressives across the state.” Is that pining for days gone by?

It’s a curious reference, too, since that item was about him angling then to become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. His fellow Republicans didn’t give him the job.

Clout provides often irreverent news and analysis about people, power, and politics.