House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s in-laws own a company that has received more than $7 million in federal contracts reserved for minority-status owners based on a claim by McCarthy’s brother-in-law that he is of Native American descent.
But a Los Angeles Times investigation indicates this claim is almost undoubtedly untrue.
The prime contracts, awarded through a federal program designed to help disadvantaged minorities, were mostly for construction projects at the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake in McCarthy’s Bakersfield-based district, and the Naval Air Station Lemoore in nearby Kings County.
Vortex Construction, whose principal owner is William Wages, the brother of McCarthy’s wife, Judy, received a total of $7.6 million in no-bid and other prime federal contracts since 2000, The Times found.
Most of Vortex’s awards were no-bid contracts, after the Small Business Administration accepted Wage’s 1998 claim that he is a Cherokee Indian, the Times noted.
Under the SBA program, his company became eligible for federal contracts set aside for economically and socially disadvantaged members of minority groups, a boon to its business.
Wages says he is one-eighth Cherokee. An examination of government and tribal records by The Times and a leading Cherokee genealogist casts doubt on that claim, however. He is a member of a group called the Northern Cherokee Nation, which has no federal or state recognition as a legitimate tribe. It is considered a fraud by leaders of tribes that have federal recognition.
Wage’s claim appears to be based on a statement made to him by his now-deceased cousin that his paternal great-grandmother was of Cherokee descent.
Though McCarthy and Wages both claim they never discussed business related to Vortex, the company’s best years for contracts happen to coincide with McCarthy’s first two years in Congress — 2006 to 2008.
Vortex received a total of about $5 million in prime contracts during those years, including $2.7 million in billings at China Lake. Over time, Vortex would obtain about $4 million in prime contracts at China Lake, $2.4 million at Lemoore and smaller amounts for work at Edwards Air Force Base in McCarthy’s district and other federal properties.
In all, it won about $7.6 million in federal contracts — the vast majority as no-bid and other contracts reserved for minority-owned firms, federal contracting records show.