The Family of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy benefited from a U.S. program set aside for various ethnic groups.
McCarthy’s brother-in-law, William Wages, claims to be one-eighth Cherokee Indian, and this has allowed him and his company, Vortex Construction, to win contracts.
Wages is the brother of Rep. McCarthy’s wife, Judy.
Wages was awarded more than $7 million in no-bid and other federal contracts at U.S. military installations and other government properties in California based on an unproven claim of Native American ancestry, a 2018 Los Angeles Times investigation uncovered.
The contracts were awarded through a federal program designed to help disadvantaged racial and ethnic groups. Since Wages claims he is a Cherokee Indian, his company became eligible for federal contracts set aside for economically and socially disadvantaged members of ethnic groups. Vortex Construction received a total of $7.6 million in federal contracts since 2000, the L.A. Times reported.
But the newspaper’s examination of government and tribal records found that Wages’ claim of Native American ancestry might not be true. He is, however, a member of a group called the Northern Cherokee Nation, which is not recognized by the U.S. federal government or other Native tribal leaders as a legitimate tribe. The official Cherokee Nation considers the Northern Cherokee Nation to be bogus, the Times reported.
While there has not been any evidence that McCarthy was involved in Wages’ bid applications, the incident reflects poorly on the powerful Republican, experts say.
“There is a direct and symbiotic connection between who McCarthy is and what he does and what his brother-in-law does,” said Loyola Law School professor Jessica Levinson, a former member of the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission.
McCarthy wrote to the Times defending his brother-in-law and the fairness of the bid application process. “I’m not aware of the program’s qualification process but have no reason to doubt that Bill and the SBA executed the process fairly and in accordance with program standards.”
The L.A. Times investigation of Wages recently resurfaced on Twitter.
“Like so many backroom dealings involving Congress this screams of unethical behavior.But his family didn’t make $7 million. The company had some expenses necessary to complete the work. It’d be revealing to see the actual profit from those contracts. Scams abound 4 both parties,” John Ballew @JohnBallew15 tweeted.
Dock Ellis @dockellis10 responded, “Yes, but they effectively stole $7 million from legitimately indigenous companies.”
No one in McCarthy’s circle or the GOP seems to have ever challenged Wages’ claims, even after the 2018 L.A. Times investigation. Yet when President Donald Trump ridiculed Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) as “fake Pocahontas” for claiming to be part Native American, she felt pressure to prove her ancestry. She released a DNA test that showed she had primarily European ancestry with “strong evidence” of Native American ancestry, Diversity Inc. reported.
“When I decided to run for Senate in 2012, I never thought that my family’s Native American heritage would come under attack and my dead parents would be called liars,” Warren said in a statement. “And I never expected the president of the United States to use my family’s story as a racist political joke.”
While McCarthy may have shied away from the Wages scandal, he has recently threatened companies that comply with the probe of the Jan. 6 Capitol attempted coup. He said the probe “attempts to strong-arm private companies to turn over individuals’ private data,” Politico reported. He claimed that he and the GOP “will not forget” companies who turned over data, suggesting they would face future Republican backlash.
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