Republican Kevin McCarthy’s Family Awarded $7M In Military Contracts By Falsely Claiming Cherokee Heritage

McCarthy's brother-in-law allegedly took advantage of a federal program for disadvantaged minorities by making a false claim that he is one-eighth Cherokee.

Kevin McCarthy and Paul Ryan
Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

McCarthy's brother-in-law allegedly took advantage of a federal program for disadvantaged minorities by making a false claim that he is one-eighth Cherokee.

An investigation by the LA Times exposed a dubious claim of Native American descent by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s in-laws; a claim that was used to win over $7 million in military contracts at United States military installations and other federal properties in the state of California. The contracts were granted to the family’s business through a federal program that aids “disadvantaged minorities,” the Times reported.

The company that was awarded the military contracts is Vortex Construction, and the Bakersfield company is owned by CEO William Wages. Wages is also the sibling of McCarthy’s spouse, Judy. According to the LA Times, Vortex Construction was awarded $7.6 million “in no-bid and other prime federal contracts since 2000.”

Vortex Construction is co-owned by Kevin McCarthy’s mother-in-law. McCarthy’s father-in-law and his sister-in-law are employed there. Additionally, Judy McCarthy was a partner in the company in the early 90’s.

The main military contracts were, for the most part, intended for construction projects at Lemoore United States Navy base and Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake.

William Wages made a claim in 1998 to the Small Business Administration that he is one-eighth Cherokee Indian, and the SBA accepted his claim. The claim of Native American ancestry enabled Vortex Construction to take advantage of SBA programs designed to help minorities that are economically and socially disadvantaged.

Because of the participation in the SBA program, Vortex faced no competitive bids for most of the federal contracts, and afterward the business thrived.

Since Kevin McCarthy is a major player in Congress the dubious claim by his brother-in-law will receive extra scrutiny — scrutiny that includes questions on whether McCarthy received any improper benefits from being the brother-in-law of William Wages.

Ethics watchdogs are asking the Office of Congressional Ethics to determine if McCarthy had any influence in the awarding of the military contracts to Vortex Construction, and if he knew about Wages’s participation in the SBA minority contracting program.

The LA Times reported that they didn’t find any evidence in their investigation that indicated that Kevin McCarthy used his political influence “to steer contracts to the company.” The Republican House Majority Leader and William Wages said they never talked about the work at Vortex with one another.

Wages said that anyone that claimed his company prospered because of his ties to his brother-in-law “is a liar.”

After the investigation by the LA Times, Vortex’s status as a company that is owned by a Native American was purged from the SBA’s public database. Officials at the company declined to say who removed it or why they did it.

The Times requested during their investigation that David Cornsilk check William Wages and any of his ancestors and compare them to membership rolls and census records of legitimate Cherokee tribes. Cornsilk is a Cherokee Nation citizen and genealogist.

Once the cross-check was completed by Cornsilk, it was found out that neither Wages nor any of ancestors appeared on any of the membership rolls that go all the way back to the “early 19th century.” Further examination by the Times that included pertinent public records such as death, marriage and census showed that his ancestors identified themselves as white. Wage’s birth certificate also states that he is white.

David Cornsilk said that, “It’s disheartening to see this.”

“Native Americans are the poorest people in the United States, and the poverty gets worse if there are abuses in the SBA program,” he went on to say.

The Small Business Association issued a statement that seemed to distance themselves from the alleged fraudulent actions of Kevin McCarthy’s in-law.

“[The SBA] takes any potential instance of fraud in any of its programs very seriously and refers such matters to the appropriate authorities for further independent examination and enforcement action where appropriate.”