WASHINGTON (USATODAY.com) — Former congressman Trey Radel is refunding contributors more than $63,000, according to the latest campaign finance report filed by the Florida Republican, who gave up his seat in January after pleading guilty to a drug charge.
The money is being returned to 53 donors — 42 individuals, 10 political action committees and one business — most of whom gave in November or December.
The list includes Radel's father, Henry J. "Skip" Radel Jr. of Cincinnati, who is getting back his donation of $2,600.
Several of the donors attended a "Gourmet with Trey" fundraiser at at the tony Grey Oaks Country Club in Naples, Fla. The event took place Nov. 5 — a week after police caught Radel trying to buy $250 worth of cocaine in Washington but two weeks before the bust became public.
The fundraiser's timing upset Betty Folkerth of Naples, who gave Radel $500 that night after he impressed her at the event.
"Why would you proceed with something like that knowing full well it was probably going to blow up in your face at some point in time?" she said Wednesday. "We were all disappointed for him and in him."
Three contributors contacted said they had not asked for a refund and were surprised that Radel plans to return their money. They had not received their refunds as of Wednesday.
Most of the refunds to individuals were authorized on March 31, according to Radel's report filed with the Federal Election Commission and released late Tuesday. The report covers campaign activity from Jan. 1 through March 31.
The campaign also is giving money back to several PACs, including those representing Home Depot, New York Life Insurance and Darden Restaurants.
Radel declined to comment.
The drug sting that nabbed Radel, a former conservative talk-show host who succeeded former GOP Rep. Connie Mack in 2013, occurred Oct. 29 but didn't become public until Radel was formally charged Nov. 19. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor cocaine possession the next day in District of Columbia Superior Court and spent 28 days in a Naples treatment center.
Radel expressed deep remorse upon his return to Capitol Hill in January and blamed his problems on a longtime addiction to alcohol.
"This is something I will continue to work on the rest of my life," he told reporters upon his return. "I will take it one day at a time and, in doing so, I hope to rebuild and regain trust."
But an ethics investigation and pressure from fellow Republicans prompted Radel to resign Jan. 27. A special election is underway to fill his Southwest Florida seat.
Folkerth said she's not bitter about it.
"People do make mistakes in life," she said. "We never really thought we'd ever get a refund."