NATIONAL NEWS

‘Don’t Say Gay’ lawmaker pleads guilty to COVID relief fraud

Mar 21, 2023, 3:48 PM

FILE - Florida state Rep. Joe Harding listens during a Local Administration and Veterans Affairs Su...

FILE - Florida state Rep. Joe Harding listens during a Local Administration and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee hearing in a legislative session on Jan. 13, 2022, in Tallahassee, Fla. Harding has been indicted for defrauding a loan program offered by the federal government to help small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic, officials said Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The former Florida lawmaker who sponsored the controversial law critics call “Don’t Say Gay” pleaded guilty Tuesday to committing $150,000 in COVID-19 relief fraud.

Joseph Harding, a 35-year-old Republican, pleaded guilty in Gainesville federal court to wire fraud, money laundering, and making false statements in connection with COVID-19 relief fraud, according to court records. He faces up to 35 years in prison at a hearing scheduled for July 25.

Harding resigned from the Florida House in December, a day after federal prosecutors announced his indictment.

According to court documents, Harding made false statements to the Small Business Administration while applying for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan for one of his dormant business entities. After obtaining $150,000 in COVID-19 relief funds, prosecutors said Harding conducted three monetary transactions, each involving more than $10,000 in fraudulently obtained funds: a transfer to his joint bank account, a payment to his credit card, and a transfer into a bank account of a third-party business entity.

The Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program is designed to provide economic relief to small businesses that are experiencing a temporary loss of revenue.

Harding became nationally known last year over his sponsorship of a law that forbids instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade, as well as material that is not deemed age appropriate.

National News

Associated Press

FACT FOCUS: A look at claims made at the Republican National Convention as Trump accepts nomination

As former President Donald Trump accepted the Republican presidential nomination on Thursday he laid out his vision for running the country. He painted a dire picture of the state of the U.S. and outlined a range of actions he planned to take. But his comments were marked with a myriad of false and misleading information […]

2 hours ago

Dr. Max Rogers, the obstetrician-gynecologist at Grove Hill Memorial Hospital, poses for a photo Mo...

Associated Press

Alabama birthing units are closing to save money and get funding. Some say babies are at risk

GROVE HILL, Ala. (AP) — One of the last remaining birthing units in southern Alabama will close next month to qualify for federal funding that will save the hospital’s emergency services, but doctors warn the move may cost newborns and pregnant women essential access to obstetric care. Nestled in rural Clarke County, the small, nonprofit […]

4 hours ago

Jim, left, and Tamara Hamilton watch former President Donald Trump speak on television on Thursday,...

Associated Press

Some GOP voters welcome Trump’s somewhat softened tone at Republican National Convention

For those conservative voters long turned off by former President Donald Trump’s rhetoric, his somewhat softened tone in accepting the Republican nomination Thursday night was a welcome relief. “He’s much improved,” Dave Struthers, a 57-year-old farmer from Collins, Iowa, said as he watched Trump’s speech in the basement of his farmhouse. “The thing I’ve had […]

4 hours ago

FILE - Former President Barack Obama speaks in Athens, Greece, June 21, 2023. Democrats at the high...

Associated Press

Obama’s dilemma: Balancing Democrats’ worry about Biden and maintaining influence with president

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former President Barack Obama has a delicate balance to strike: how to weigh the mounting opposition to President Joe Biden continuing his campaign with his loyalty to his former running mate. In recent days, Obama has taken calls from congressional leaders, Democratic governors and key donors in which he has shared their […]

4 hours ago

Vice President Kamala Harris arrives for an Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote Town Hall, Sat...

Associated Press

Majority of Democrats think Kamala Harris would make a good president, AP-NORC poll shows

WASHINGTON (AP) — As President Joe Biden faces a growing drumbeat of pressure to drop his reelection bid, a majority of Democrats think his vice president would make a good president herself. A new poll from the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that about 6 in 10 Democrats believe Kamala Harris would do […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

How bootcamps are helping to address the historic gap in internet access on US tribal lands

There’s a home movie theater with orange walls and plush recliners at the top of a steep hill on Matthew Rantanen’s ranch in Southern California. But on a recent afternoon, people weren’t flocking to the room to watch a movie or to escape the scorching heat, they were shining a beam of light through more […]

4 hours ago

‘Don’t Say Gay’ lawmaker pleads guilty to COVID relief fraud