Chris Dorworth, a longtime associate of Matt Gaetz, resigned from his position at lobbying firm Ballard Partners on Friday night amid a federal probe involving the Florida congressman.
Dorworth previously served as a former Florida state legislator before joining Ballard Partners. In recent years, he has been seen in several photos posted to social media with Gaetz.
“I always loved working @BallardFirm. Best boss, best coworkers, best clients. The current political environment is nasty, and I told Brian I don’t think it’s fair for the recent media storm to take away from their missions. A classier or more effective group I couldn’t imagine,” Dorworth tweeted on Friday night.
Later that evening, Dorworth confirmed to Florida Politics that he had “very amicably” left the lobbying firm because he didn’t want press reports to harm the company. He also said he will now return to working on his development business.
Dorworth’s profile and biography has been removed from the lobbying firm’s website.
The Justice Department is investigating allegations of sex trafficking involving Gaetz and whether he paid for and engaged in sexual relations with a 17-year-old. The House Ethics Committee opened an investigation into the Florida congressman on Friday. Gaetz has repeatedly and firmly denied the allegations.
On Thursday, Dorworth’s name was mentioned in a New York Times article, which reported that Joel Greenberg—a Gaetz associate and former Orlando county tax collector—is expected to plead guilty to charges related to the alleged scandal in a plea deal arrangement with federal investigators.
Two unnamed people familiar with the inquiry told the Times that investigators were told Gaetz and Dorworth had discussed potentially putting a sham third-party ballot forward in the 2020 state Senate race to hinder the campaign of an opponent to Jason T. Brodeur, a Gaetz ally.
The sources said investigators were still working through the new findings, which could potentially broaden the probe beyond sex trafficking.
Dorworth told the outlet that he did not recall talking to Gaetz about finding a third-party candidate, but also said that “there would be nothing legal about it if we had,” as long as we didn’t pay them.
It is legal for politicians to seek third-party candidates to harm an opponent’s campaign. However, paying such candidates to do so would constitute a violation of campaign finance regulations.
“I never met the woman who did run,” Dorworth added. “Never spoke to her, communicated by any written device, gave her any money or anything else.”
Newsweek reached out to Gaetz’s office for comment.