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This $100,000 Donation by Matt Gaetz Raises All the Eyebrows

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Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast / Photo Getty

On the day Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial began in the Senate, the campaign for embattled Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL)—reportedly under federal investigation since the summer for alleged sex crimes with an underage teen—made by far its largest ever political contribution: $100,000 to a mysterious nonprofit created to defend the then-president.

While that donation may not sound out of the ordinary, it stands out for a number of reasons. For one, the size of the donation is curious: It’s double the amount of Gaetz’s second-largest donation ever, and it’s $22,000 more than the campaign’s combined gifts to close ally Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL). For another, the nonprofit appears to have done nothing now for more than a year. And even odder is the Gaetz campaign’s own explanation—which experts say raises questions of legality.

The group, “Right Direction America,” is a nonprofit launched in December 2019 by Trump ally and former Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) as a 501(c)4—a so-called “dark money” social welfare organization which doesn’t have to disclose its donors but cannot participate primarily in political activity. Christie billed the group as a vehicle to drum up public support for Trump during his first impeachment trial in the Senate.

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But that’s not why the Gaetz campaign says it donated to Right Direction America. A campaign spokesperson told The Daily Beast that the organization supports former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who two weeks prior to the Gaetz donation had announced her 2022 campaign for governor of Arkansas.

“We support the mission of Right Direction America,” the spokesperson said.

But there’s no public record of RDA supporting Sanders for governor, and there isn’t activity of any kind since August 2020. According to the Federal Election Commission’s database, RDA has received money from no political group other than the Gaetz campaign.

For someone who’s so strongly backing Sanders that he would make a $100,000 donation to a group purportedly in support of her, there’s strangely no record of any direct donations to the Sanders campaign from the Gaetz campaign, nor from the beleaguered congressman himself—unlike with DeSantis. The campaign did not reply when presented with that information.

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Further complicating the Gaetz campaign’s sole explanation that RDA supports Sanders, the group’s nonprofit status bars it from participating primarily in political activity. The Gaetz spokesperson did not answer when asked if the campaign knew what else the group did.

It’s not a surprise that Gaetz would support Sanders for governor. Sanders’ father, former GOP Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, has had a relationship with the embattled congressmen for years. Huckabee endorsed Gaetz’s 2016 and 2018 campaigns and has a beach house in Gaetz’s district. Gaetz reportedly, and notably, backed a Democratic-sponsored Florida state bill that would have kept people off Huckabee’s public beach.

And Sanders of course is a close Trump ally, as the ex-president’s former press secretary.

But Caleb Burns, a partner at Wiley Rein who specializes in campaign finance and nonprofit law, told The Daily Beast that the donation and the group’s activities raise some questions.

Burns said that while the government’s exact threshold for “primarily” isn’t codified, political activity is often understood to be capped at 40 percent of a 501(c)4 organization’s overall work.

“Political activity is also frequently subject to legally required disclosures under the campaign finance laws. However, other policy and issue advocacy—which must generally account for 60 percent of a (c)4 organization’s spending—often is not,” he said.

According to the Facebook advertising database, between December and February 2020 RDA spent about $35,000 on ads matching its mission. It then ceased that activity. However, last August the group made a political contribution more than double that amount—$75,000—to a super PAC supporting GOP House candidate Matt Mowers, who ran in New Hampshire but lost to Democratic incumbent Rep. Chris Pappas. (Mowers is running in 2022.) It also released digital ads in February targeting Democratic candidates in key Senate races.

Politico has reported that Christie teamed up for the project with longtime Republican strategist Phil Cox. This March, DeSantis tapped Cox as a senior adviser to his 2022 campaign.

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However, Christie—who is rumored to be considering a 2024 presidential bid—left the group on Dec. 31, according to a Christie spokesperson.

Additionally, no news reports have mentioned Right Direction America since the 2020 impeachment trial. Searches of public records, advertising, and political email databases conducted by The Daily Beast and other research groups show no public activity beyond re-upping its incorporation status with the state of Virginia this April—sans Christie.

A Facebook search turns up no pages. RDA’s YouTube channel is empty. And its website consists solely of an email signup and privacy policy, which appears to be a popular cut-and-paste template. A search of a nationwide database of state-level campaign finance activity yields no hits.

The Daily Beast has reached out to the nonprofit and its board of directors multiple times over the last several months, but has received no reply. We also signed up for the group’s email list in April, but have not yet received one.

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Robert Maguire, director of research and nonprofit law expert at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told The Daily Beast that the information in the public record “does raise the question of how legit this nonprofit organization is.”

“When you see a webpage like that, that has nothing—no press clips, no projects, no events, no contact information, no address, nothing to identify it as a group with an office where people go to work, or produce actual work—the first question is what do they exist to do?” Maguire told The Daily Beast. “How are they validating their nonprofit status?”

The organization, he added, has the outward appearance of “a shield for political activity.”

“Gaetz doesn’t represent the group, but if the campaign is only telling you they support Sanders, it would indicate they’re a political group,” Maguire observed. He added that it was “incumbent on the organization” to provide an explanation, but noted the group’s activities won’t be known until it submits its 2021 tax returns, “which could take until November 2022.”

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Neither the organization’s current director, Mississippi-based GOP political adviser Joey Songy, nor its president, conservative political strategist Generra Peck, replied when asked what RDA did. They also did not answer later questions about the Gaetz donation specifically.

Peck currently heads up political consulting firm P2 Public Affairs, where Cox is a co-founder. RDA’s other board members—strategists scattered around the country—also did not reply to questions about the group.

However, given that RDA’s only publicized mission was defending Trump amid his first impeachment trial, the timing of Gaetz’s donation—the first day of Trump’s second impeachment trial—raises questions about its purpose.

Gaetz, who had reportedly been under federal investigation for sex-trafficking a 17-year-old girl since the previous summer, allegedly sought a pardon during Trump’s final weeks in office. The White House reportedly shot down the effort. Then, after the first reports of the investigation broke in late March, Gaetz was said to have inveigled Trump for public support. The former president eventually released a milquetoast 24-word statement saying Gaetz hadn’t sought a pardon, and that “it must also be remembered that he has totally denied the accusations against him.”

Asked multiple times whether the Justice Department has notified Gaetz that he is no longer the subject of federal investigation, two campaign spokespeople would not say. One response promoted Gaetz’s podcast. The Daily Beast also contacted criminal defense attorney Marc Fernich—who in June received $25,000 in legal fees from the Gaetz campaign and who has represented sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and druglord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán—but received no reply.

Days prior to the $100,000 donation, Gaetz, a lawyer, offered to represent Trump in the trial. The three-term congressman, whose phone was seized by federal agents in December, told Fox News that given the ethics conflicts, he would even resign from Congress “if the law requires it.”

“I only regret that I have but one political career to give to my president,” Gaetz said at the time.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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A Colorado hiker lost for 24 hours ignored rescuers’ attempts to reach them because they didn’t recognize the phone number

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A stock image of a cable car in the mountains. Getty Images

  • A hiker set out to trek Colorado’s highest peak for 24 hours on October 18.

  • They were reported missing, and a search-and-rescue operation was carried out through the night.

  • While the search was underway, the person ignored calls; they didn’t recognize the phone number.

A Colorado hiker who got lost on a trail ignored calls from search-and-rescue officials who tried to locate him for 24 hours, because they didn’t recognize the number repeatedly calling them, according to the New York Post.

In a Facebook post, Lake County Search and Rescue officials described the ordeal, which happened on Mount Ebert, Colorado’s highest peak.

According to the officials, the hiker set out at 9:00 a.m. on October 18, and by 8 p.m. that evening, they began searching for him when an individual reported that he had not returned from his hike.

“Multiple attempts to contact the subject via their cell phone were unsuccessful,” the post said.

The officials said that first, a team of five set out at 11 p.m. to search for the missing hiker and stayed out until 3 a.m. on October 19. A team of three picked up the search a few hours later, at 7 a.m., looking in areas that hikers typically get lost.

But by 9:30 a.m. the following day, the search was called off.

“At approximately 0930 the reporting party reported the subject had returned to their place of lodging. All personnel were out of the field by 1000,” the post said.

The officials said the individual “lost the trail around nightfall and spent the night searching for the trail, and once on the trail, bounced around onto different trails trying to locate the proper trailhead.”

The missing hiker reached their car the next morning and 24 hours after they set out for the day hike, and had no idea a search and rescue operation was underway because they declined calls coming in from the officials.

“One notable take-away is that the subject ignored repeated phone calls from us because they didn’t recognize the number,” the officials said. “If you’re overdue according to your itinerary, and you start getting repeated calls from an unknown number, please answer the phone; it may be a SAR team trying to confirm you’re safe!”

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Police: 2 dead, 4 injured in Boise, Idaho, mall shooting

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Police: 2 dead, 4 injured in Boise, Idaho, mall shooting



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When Should You Drink Your Last Coffee of the Day?

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ProFootball Talk on NBC Sports

Replay official Carl Madsen died at 71 on Sunday

The NFL announced that replay official Carl Madsen died on Sunday at the age of 71. Madsen died on his way home after working the Week Seven game between the Titans and Chiefs. He had spent the last 12 years as a replay official and had previously spent 12 years as an on-field official. “Carl [more]



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A fire broke out on a cargo ship after about 40 shipping containers fell overboard due to rough seas off the coast of Vancouver Island

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Imagery captured of located containers from U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Port Angeles helicopter. US Coast Guard

  • Around 40 shipping containers went overboard when a cargo ship hit rough seas on Friday.

  • A fire broke out Saturday on the same ship, the Zim Kingston, while anchored near Vancouver Island.

  • US and Canadian officials are monitoring the situation, including some containers with “hazardous materials.”

A fire broke out Saturday on a cargo ship, known as the Zim Kingston, that had lost around 40 shipping containers off the coast of Canada’s Vancouver Island the day before, officials said.

The US Coast Guard said in a tweet Friday they were monitoring adrift shipping containers that went overboard after an inbound vessel en route to Canada encountered rough seas. Photos shared by the coast guard showed some of the shipping containers afloat in the open ocean.

The US Coast Guard said Friday 35 floating containers had been located. As of Saturday, five had still not been located, and officials were warning other vessels to be extremely cautious in the area as the containers “may be partially submerged and not visible,” the Vancouver Sun reported.

The Canadian Coast Guard told the outlet some of the containers that fell held hazardous materials, and that the agency would assess for any “pollution threats and hazards.”

A day after the containers fell from the Zim Kingston, a fire broke out on the ship while it was anchored near Victoria, according to the Canadian Coast Guard. The agency told CHEK News reporter Jasmine Bala the fire started in damaged containers that were still onboard.

The Canadian Coast Guard told Bala two of the six containers that are on fire contain “hazardous material.” They also said 10 crew members were evacuated while 11 remain on the ship, with no reports of injuries.

In a warning to other vessels, the Canadian Coast Guard established an emergency zone around the Zim Kingston, saying: “The ship is on fire and expelling toxic gas. Two fallen containers are floating in the vicinity of the vessel. Caution.”

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Obama criticizes Youngkin in Va. governor’s race

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Reuters

Obama fires up Virginia crowd for governor’s race he calls a U.S. “turning point”

RICHMOND, Va. (Reuters) -Former U.S. President Barack Obama urged Virginians to re-elect Terry McAuliffe as governor at a rally on Saturday, emphasizing the race’s significance as an indicator of the country’s political direction and a reflection of its values. Obama and McAuliffe, who served as the state’s governor from 2014 to 2018, spoke before a cheering crowd at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond with just 10 days to go before the closely watched, tight Nov. 2 election. Obama told the crowd the Virginia election represented a national “turning point,” where Americans could either become more embattled in the divisive politics that characterized Republican Donald Trump’s presidency and which culminated in an attack by Trump’s supporters on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, or “pull together” to “solve big problems.”



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Fans can’t get over Will Poulter’s transformation as he prepares for Marvel role

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Will Poulter is surprising fans with his buff new look.

The former child star is preparing for his role as Marvel superhero Adam Warlock in director James Gunn’s upcoming “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” — and it’s no exaggeration to say Poulter is looking muscled up in his latest Instagram video.

The “Dopesick” actor’s fans are taking notice of his physical transformation, with one admirer posting a video on TikTok featuring before-and-after shots of Poulter. “I can’t believe this glow-up,” the fan wrote.

More fans responded to celebrate Poulter’s new chiseled look on Twitter, with one wondering, “sorry when did will poulter get sexy????”

“Holy moly. It *is* true. Will Poulter got jacked,” gushed another.

“omg he looks like hemsworth, someone else chimed in.

Poulter found fame at age 15 after playing Lee Carter in the 2008 movie “Son of Rambow.” After appearing alongside Jason Sudeikis and Jennifer Aniston in the 2013 comedy “We’re the Millers,” the London-born actor went on to star in the sci-fi flick “The Maze Runner” (2014). He also turned in notable performances in “The Revenant” (2015), “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch” (2018), and the critically acclaimed horror movie “Midsommar” (2019).

Gunn confirmed on Twitter that Poulter had won the role of Adam Warlock in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” writing on Oct. 11, “As you guys know I often strike down false rumors, so … um … Welcome to the Guardians family, Will Poulter. He’s an amazing actor and wonderful guy.”

Poulter responded to say he was thrilled to appear in the movie, which is scheduled to hit theaters in May 2023. “Thank you, James. It’s a genuine honour to play this role and to work with you. I’m very excited to get to work,” the English actor wrote.

Just one week later, a reporter for the movie and entertainment blog Flip Your Wig asked Poulter if he was ready to “flex” some serious superhero muscle.

“I better get ready, I guess,” he responded, adding, “Working on it, working on it.”

CORRECTION (Oct. 23, 2021, 1:15 p.m.): An earlier version of this article misstated the age Poulter found fame. He was 15 when the 2008 movie “Son of Rambow” was released.

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Video emerges of Alec Baldwin’s ‘Rust’ co-star Jensen Ackles speaking about the production’s firearm training days before fatal set shooting

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Actor Jensen Ackles. Leon Bennett/WireImage

  • “Rust” actor Jensen Ackles discussed firearms training days before a fatal on-set shooting.

  • In a video, Ackles said he was asked by a prop master to fire “off a couple of rounds” on the set.

  • Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was fatally shot on the “Rust” set on Thursday.

A video depicting Alec Baldwin’s “Rust” co-star Jensen Ackles discussing the firearms training he received on the film’s set days before the cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was fatally shot during filming has surfaced online.

In the video, which has now been deleted in many places but remains available on Youtube and TikTok, Ackles describes a brief training session he had with the film’s armorer – the technical crew member responsible for prop firearms.

The clip was filmed between Oct. 15-17 when Ackles’ appeared at a fan event in Denver for his show Supernatural, according to Deadline.

“They had me pick my gun, they were like, ‘Alright, what gun would you like?’ and I was like, ‘I don’t know,'” Ackles can be seen saying in the view.

He continued: “The armorer was like, ‘Do you have gun experience?’ I was like, ‘A little.’ And she’s like, ‘Okay, well, this is how you load it, this is how we check it and make sure it’s safe.'”

Ackles added that the armorer said she was “going to put some blanks” into the gun. He was then instructed to practice for his scene by firing “off a couple of rounds” into the distance.

“I walk out, and she’s like, ‘Just make sure you pull the hammer all the way back and aim at your target,’ I was like, ‘All right, I got it,'” he said.

No information has been released by authorities that links Jensen to the fatal shooting on the film’s set. It is also not clear whether the same armorer Jensen referenced in the video had worked with Alec Baldwin, who discharged the prop gun that killed 42-year-old cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

Multiple reports have confirmed that the gun Alec Baldwin discharged on the film’s set held “live rounds.” According to an affidavit, Baldwin was handed the gun by an assistant director, who said “cold gun,” The New York Times and the Associated Press reported. The term refers to a gun that is not loaded with live rounds.

In a statement given to Insider on Friday, Hutchins’ husband, Matthew, reacted to his wife’s death.

“I don’t think there are words to communicate the situation,” Matthew Hutchins, 38, said. “I am not going to be able to comment about the facts or the process of what we’re going through right now, but I appreciate that everyone has been very sympathetic.”

He added, “I think that we will need a little bit of time before we can really encapsulate her life in a way that is easy to communicate.”

Read the original article on Insider



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