Rep. Radel raked in $1k per plate after coke bust from unwitting Naples donors
Naples City Desk exclusive available on WatchdogCity.com
By Gina Edwards
Naples City Desk
Naples, Fla. — Days after his bust for buying cocaine from an undercover cop, U.S. Rep. Trey Radel was back in his district collecting $1,000 per plate from unwitting donors at a swank Naples country club fundraiser dubbed “Gourmet with Trey.”
Some Naples Republicans are galled that Radel, 37, would continue his campaign fundraising after he’d been caught in the D.C. buy-and-bust coke sting in which he was confronted by federal agents on Oct. 29.
The Radel fundraiser invitation, obtained by Naples City Desk, invites donors to pay $1,000 per plate to the Nov. 5 “Gourmet with Trey” dinner in the Garden Room of the exclusive Grey Oaks Country Club in Naples. A cocktail reception was held in the Everglades Room before the 6 p.m. dinner which featured “specialty wines to match courses.”
Radel, a freshman Republican who was elected in 2012 after a hard fought primary with more than 62 percent of the vote in this solidly GOP district covering the Naples and Fort Myers areas, declined to resign his office after his guilty plea Wednesday.
Collier County GOP State Committeeman Doug Rankin said he was personally upset by Radel’s cocaine charge and actions and that Radel wouldn’t have been able to fundraise in Naples had people known about his cocaine arrest.
“There would have been nothing of that nature [fundraising] had people known,” Rankin said of Radel’s cocaine arrest. Radel was formally charged with possession of cocaine by a grand jury on Nov. 19, but the bust took place on Oct. 29.
“I have confidence that people in my district wouldn’t elect him again,” Rankin said.
A spokesman for Radel didn't return a message seeking comment.
“I think everyone who has donated is upset,” says Priscilla Grannis, president of the Women’s Republican Club of Naples Federated.
Radel was the luncheon speaker for the club on Nov. 8, but the event wasn’t a fundraiser. But she said she didn’t know if members gave Radel checks while he was there.
“I personally am extremely offended that he would come to us and enjoy our hospitality … knowing full well this was all going to come out in days,” Grannis said. “We feel duped and betrayed and manipulated.”
Radel, back in his Cape Coral District office hours after his guilty plea in D.C. on Wednesday, declined to resign and instead told reporters that he’d be taking an unspecified leave of absence. Radel blamed his cocaine use on his problem with alcoholism and said he’d be seeking in-patient treatment in Naples. Radel didn’t say how long he’s been an alcoholic.
And while he apologized to his constituents and family, he also said he hopes to be a role model for people recovering from addiction. “I believe in forgiveness and redemption,” Radel said.
Radel pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor cocaine possession charge on Wednesday in D.C. Superior Court, one day after he was formally charged.
According to court documents, federal FBI and DEA agents and learned as part of their investigation that Radel had bought and done cocaine with an acquaintance and that he regularly bought cocaine and shared it with others. After meeting with an undercover police officer and an acquaintance at a restaurant in the historic DuPont Circle neighborhood, Radel bought 3.5 grams of cocaine from the undercover police officer for $260.
After Radel took possession of the cocaine, federal agents swooped in and Radel dropped the cocaine to the street. He then invited the agents to discuss the situation back at his apartment, where he turned over a vial of cocaine he had there.
Radel waived his right to trial and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor cocaine possession on Wednesday. He will receive one year of probation with minimal supervision and he will enter an in-patient addiction treatment program in Naples.
Sam Saad Jr., the father of Naples City Councilman Sam Saad III, hosted the fundraiser for Radel. Attempts to reach the elder Saad weren’t successful.
Just how much Radel collected isn’t known, but a person who attended the cocktail reception before hand said there were an estimated 20 to 25 people at the cocktail reception. The dinner cost $1,000 per plate, but whether people could go to the cocktail pre-event without paying isn’t clear.
Campaign finance records show that in 2013 the “Friends of Trey Radel” fundraising committee collected more than $279,000 from January 1 to September 30.
According to the Federal Election Commission, the fate of campaign funds is fairly limited. Campaign donations must be refunded if the candidate drops out of the election. The funds can also be redesignated or reattributed with the consent of the donor.
Naples City Desk reporter John Wix contributed to this report.
Contact Gina Edwards at 239-514-1336 or email@example.com
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