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Vicente Gonzalez funneled tens of thousands of dollars in campaign money to his own company, Records Show

By on October 5, 2022 0

The Texas Democrat has a long history of ethical issues

Representative Vicente Gonzales (WikiMedia Commons)

Collin Anderson • October 5, 2022 5:00 a.m.

Texas Democratic Congressman Vicente Gonzalez paid tens of thousands of dollars in campaign money to a company he owns and runs, a move that drew condemnation from liberal media and ethics pundits when he was employed by former President Donald Trump.

Since 2018, Gonzalez has sent $33,000 to an unremarkable-sounding property management company, Tenant Services LLC, to rent office space, according to the federal government. campaign finance disclosures. It turns out that Gonzalez owns this company, financial statements and corporate documents obtained by the Free Washington Beacon To display. The setup allows Gonzalez to use his job as a politician to pocket more than his congressional salary, from which the Democrat earns $174,000 a year.

Members of Congress are allowed to pay office rent themselves as long as the monthly amount is a fair market rate. Yet similar arrangements have drawn criticism from ethics experts. When Trump’s political entity used donor funds to rent office space at Trump Tower, for example, the Huffington Post and the Washington PostYou cited watchdog groups as calling the setup “sleazy,” “a scam,” and “a scam.” University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato, meanwhile, compared Rep. Tom Suozzi to Trump after the New York Democrat used campaign funds to pay a company he owns nearly $40,000. “You should not run for office or serve in office to enrich yourself in any form,” Sabato said. Told the New York Post. “Trump was a master at it.”

Gonzalez, who is embroiled in a high-profile campaign against Rep. Mayra Flores (R., Texas), has a long history of ethical issues. For at least eight years, the Democrat and his wife improperly claimed a homestead exemption on two separate properties, saving the couple thousands of dollars in taxes, the Texas Grandstand reported in August. About two months earlier, a Business Intern report found that Gonzalez violated a federal conflict of interest law by waiting nearly a year to disclose a stock trade. This law requires Gonzalez to report transactions no later than 45 days after making them.

Gonzalez did not return a request for comment. The Democrat is the “owner and director” of Tenant Services, according to his latest House financial statement. Corporate documents obtained by the Free tag also list Gonzalez as the sole managing agent of the company.

Gonzalez isn’t the only Texas Democrat to pay campaign office rent himself, though he’s been less forthcoming about the arrangement compared to his Lone Star State colleagues. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D., Texas) cuts a $750 check each month for “office rent and furnishings”—these disbursements specifically state that Cuellar “personally owns and manages” the building from which he campaign rents. In Gonzalez’s case, an LLC with a generic name makes the connection less apparent.

Gonzalez’s campaign office is listed at the same address as the Democrat’s law firm, V. Gonzalez and Associates. Gonzalez earned $110,000 in “attorney fees” from the firm in 2021, according to its financials.

Before launching his political career, Gonzalez agreed to represent a host of controversial clients through his firm. In the late 1990s, for example, the Democrat was hired to defend an array of criminal drug dealers who collectively conspired to distribute thousands of pounds of marijuana, nearly half a pound of cocaine and eight pounds of MDMA, the Free tag reported in July. One of Gonzalez’s clients, Richard Contreras, pleaded guilty to federal charges after conspiring to import more than 2,200 pounds of marijuana from Mexico. Another, Frank Tijerina, ran a Texas street gang called the “Corrupt Criminal Mob”. More than a decade later, Gonzalez often stresses the need to stop the flow of drugs from the southern border and maintain “law and order.”

Gonzalez joined Congress in 2017, replacing longtime Democratic incumbent Rubén Hinojosa in Texas’ 15th congressional district. After Gonzalez won re-election in 2018, he faced a surprisingly close race in 2020 against Republican Monica de la Cruz, whom he beat by just 3 points.

That result prompted Gonzalez to run for Texas’ 34th congressional district in 2022 instead, as the state’s redistricting process made the seat considerably bluer. But Republicans remain hopeful that Flores can beat Gonzalez in November, especially after Flores in June became the first woman born in Mexico elected to Congress and the first Republican to represent parts of the 34th congressional district since 1870. In that race, Flores beat her Democratic opponent, Dan Sanchez, in historically blue areas such as Cameron County, which is 90% Hispanic and voted for Biden by double digits in 2020. Flores raised $1.8 million to Gonzalez’s $2.3 million.