When we heard the news that the Feds were investigating whether Matt Gaetz and a Florida lobbyist were conspiring to use a phantom third party candidate to rig a Florida State Senate election, the storyline sounded eerily familiar. After all, just three weeks ago, a Florida State Senator was arrested for using a phantom third party candidate to rig his own reelection.
It turns out these are two different stories, centered around 2020 State Senate elections in two different Florida districts. But here’s the thing. It may actually be worse that it’s two different districts, because what are the odds that it’s a coincidence? In fact Rachel Maddow revealed on her MSNBC show on Friday night that roughly a dozen Florida State Senate races in 2020 had third party candidates who got a lot of votes despite having no real presence in the race.
Gaetz tweeted on Friday night that he wasn’t involved in any such thing. No surprise; he’s been denying everything. Interestingly, the guy that Gaetz was allegedly conspiring with on this just lost his job at a pro-Trump lobbying firm. But it turns out the third party candidate in that race portrayed herself as being a Black woman in her campaign flyers when she was actually white, and after the election was over, she packed up and moved to Sweden. So that’s ahem, suspicious.
Everyone in Florida knows that the Florida Republican Party is corrupt even by Republican standards. But nothing is done about it because, well, it’s Florida. The Governor, Ron DeSantis, is openly corrupt. Florida’s U.S. Senators are career criminal Rick Scott and infantile jackass Marco Rubio. So you don’t exactly expect accountability at the State Senate level.
But the thing about the Trump era is that the usual Republican suspects all took their corruption to an even more extreme level. The State Senator who got arrested last month was being cartoonishly corrupt, staging a third party candidate with the same name as his Democratic opponent. And now the Feds are investigating whether a U.S. Congressman was involved in rigging another Florida State Senate race, even as a double digit number of other suspicious Florida races in 2020 fit the same general profile as the two that are known to be under criminal investigation.
Is it possible that the criminal probe into Matt Gaetz, which started off as a probe into whether he likes underage girls, could end up becoming a wide scale federal criminal probe into felony election rigging in Florida? If this is as ugly as what’s being alleged, Gaetz could end up taking half of Florida down with him.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report