Mr. Gaetz, the scion of a wealthy Florida businessmen who served in the Florida State Legislature before being elected to the House in 2016, has, at times, reveled in his frat-boy reputation, boasting about his exploits to fellow lawmakers. He even showed photos of his sexual conquests to a colleague on the House floor.
That recklessness spilled into public view in recent years, as some past acquaintances divulged stories about his behavior to law enforcement officials and the news media.
In several instances, Mr. Gaetz asked women to help find others who might want to have sex with him and his friends, according to people familiar with those conversations interviewed by The Times. Should anyone inquire about their relationships, one person said, Mr. Gaetz instructed the women to indicate that he had paid for hotel rooms and dinners as part of their dates.
Mr. Gaetz also took ecstasy, an illegal mood-altering drug, before having sex, people familiar with the encounters said in 2021.
But prosecutors ultimately determined that Mr. Gaetz’s actions, however questionable, could not sustain a successful criminal prosecution.
That reprieve for Mr. Gaetz appears to extend to his political life.
Voters in Florida’s First Congressional District, in the westernmost part of the state’s panhandle, seemed largely unfazed by all the stories about him. They elected him to a fourth term with 67.9 percent of the vote against his Democratic opponent in November, by an even greater margin than he had won two years earlier.
In recent months Mr. Gaetz has, if anything, elevated his status among House Republicans, elbowing his way from his party’s backbenches to the middle of the pack through force of personality and by maximizing his internal leverage.