The Florida Panhandle has seen its share of sketchy Republican office holders. Few local voters who were around in 2001 can forget the suspicious death of Lori Klausutis, a 29-year old constituent services staffer for retiring Florida GOP Representative Joe Scarborough. Klausutis’s body was discovered at 8:00 in the morning on July 20, 2001, by a couple who arrived at Scarborough’s North Fort Walton Beach office for a meeting. Klausutis is said to have died from a skull fracture. The local coroner’s determination that the very physically fit Klausutis died from accidental causes left many voters in Florida’s First Congressional District convinced that Scarborough, now the host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” somehow knew more than what was revealed about the circumstances of his aide’s death during the middle of the night.
On Tuesday, August 30, the Panhandle’s GOP primary voters will be given the opportunity of electing another congressman with a shady past from the heavily-Republican First District. Matt Gaetz, the son of Florida State Senator Don Gaetz, hopes to head to Washington to fill Scarborough’s old House seat. The Gaetz father and son team hail from a prominent Republican political family in North Dakota.
Matt Gaetz, currently a member of the Florida House of Representatives, portrays himself to the Bible-thumping voters of the Panhandle as a God-fearing conservative. However, even a partial glance at Gaetz’s record reveals at least seven arrests for drunk driving and a reputed alternate gay life style. Gaetz’s politically powerful father Don ensured that none of the arrests led to prosecutions.
The current U.S. House hopeful Matt Gaetz saw his political career launched when he became a legislative aide to Florida’s Republican House Speaker Ray Sansom. Sansom, who succeeded Marco Rubio as Speaker, was pressured to hire Matt by the elder Gaetz. Sansom fired Gaetz twice due to his aide’s DWI arrests and Gaetz’s habit of speaking on behalf of the Speaker without clearing statements first with his boss.
Sansom represented Florida’s 4th House district. In 2010, Sansom resigned after he was indicted on fraud and conspiracy charges by Leon County state prosecutor Willie Meggs. The Florida House’s campaign to have Sansom resign over his alleged ethical violations was led by Don Gaetz, who then arranged to run his son Matt to fill the vacant 4th district seat in a special election. Matt Gaetz won and was easily re-elected in 2014 with no Democratic opponent. After Meggs was indicted, Florida prosecutors dropped all criminal charges against Sansom. However, the political damage to the former Florida House Speaker was done. Matt Gaetz and his father used the corrupt prosecutor-manufactured political grave of Sansom to launch Gaetz’s current campaign for the U.S. House.
And what would be Panhandle politics without a dead body? Gaetz’s roommate at Florida State University was reportedly found dead under suspicious circumstances while they were undergraduate students. The same political machine that drove Sansom from office was used to cover up the circumstances of the roommate’s death. Sources close to the investigation of the death, however, told WMR that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigated the death as a possible homicide but the agency was later politically-pressured to rule it a suicide. As with Gaetz’s multiple DWIs, the suspicious death of his college roommate was buried by Florida authorities and the university.
Matt Gaetz later, according to WMR’s sources in the 1st Congressional District, became involved in a gay relationship with a well-known pastor of an evangelical mega-church in Fort Walton Beach. Matt Gaetz is running for the U.S. Congress as a traditional “family values” and anti-gay rights conservative. Gaetz has also endorsed GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.
On August 30, Florida Panhandle Republican voters have the opportunity to maintain their storied tradition and elect another scoundrel to the U.S. Congress. Our guess is that they will not disappoint.
Previously published in the Wayne Madsen Report.
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Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and nationally-distributed columnist. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).