Federal prosecutors announced charges Wednesday against Florida state Rep. Joe Harding, accusing him of bilking a pandemic assistance program to get loans for businesses that had gone defunct years earlier.
Mr. Harding, a Republican, is best known as the author of Florida’s parental rights legislation, better known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law.
A grand jury indicted Mr. Harding on counts of wire fraud, money laundering and making false statements.
Prosecutors say he applied for $150,000 in pandemic loans from the Small Business Administration.
Mr. Harding claimed that one of the businesses, the Vak Shack Inc., had gross revenue of more than $420,000 and employed four people in the year before the pandemic. He claimed the other business, Harding Farms LLC, had $392,000 in revenue.
In fact, prosecutors charged, both businesses had been dormant since 2017.
Mr. Harding’s law governing schools’ treatment of gender identity became a national sensation earlier this year.
The law prohibits schools from teaching about sexual orientation or sexual identity in kindergarten through third grade, or in any other grade “in a manner not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate in accordance with state standards.”
He told Florida media he had become concerned with what appeared to be schools’ intense focus on the issue — and particularly on urging students to see their identity as separate from their sex at birth.
• Stephen Dinan can be reached at email@example.com.
Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC.