Vortex Construction: LA Times story about heritage, business based on ‘political motivation’

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Kevin McCarthy’s brother-in-law, Bill Wages, issued a statement Monday afternoon following a Los Angeles Times story stating that Wages received no-bid government contracts worth more than $7 million through a program allowing Wages to claim Native American heritage.

Wages is the owner of Vortex Construction on Butte Street in Bakersfield.

The Times reports that Vortex Construction received more than $7 million in federal contracts through the Small Business Administration between 2000 and 2007.

Much of the work involved China Lake Naval Air weapons station in Ridgecrest, which is in the 23rd District McCarthy represents.

Wages dismisses the Times’ story, saying he was harassed by its staff in pursuit of its story. Wages adds the purpose of the story was based on “political motivation.”

The Times’ investigation could not verify Wage’s Native American heritage because Cherokee tribal leaders say the tribe Wages laid claim to is not considered legitimate.

Wages also said his application for the program followed regulatory guidelines and was approved with supporting documents.

The Times reports its investigation found no evidence that McCarthy did anything to steer contracts to his brother-in-law’s company.

Ethics watchdogs interviewed by the Times questioned whether the success of  Wages’ business in McCarthy’s own district was a coincidence.

In a statement, McCarthy’s spokesperson Matt Sparks called the Times article as a “non-story.”

Read Wages’ statement in full:

To Whom it May Concern:

After months of FOIA requests and harassment by L.A. Times staff, a story was written for the sole purpose of impugning me, my family, and my small business. A business that I started from the ground up which now employs 15 full and part-time employees in Kern County, a majority of whom are minorities. I’m proud of my heritage and the hard work that my general contracting business does. I provided information to them in an effort to try to clear up any questions they might have had. However, it became clear to me that they had their own story they wanted to write. Regardless of the fact that I have been a member of the Northern Cherokee Nation of Missouri and Arkansas, now over 20 years, and that my application to the SBA, done solely by myself, followed the regulatory guidelines and was approved with supporting documentation, the story was given headline status in the Sunday edition. The L.A. Times management is completely aware of what position and what day a story is given for maximum exposure.

Given that the L.A. Times story doesn’t include investigations about other small businesses that have applied to an SBA program leads me to believe that they decided to target me, my family, and my small business based on political motivation. This was made crystal clear to me when one reporter asked me “One last question, what do you think of Trump?” and before I could answer, the other reporter interjected, “Oh, he likes him.” This was the final question and presumed answer of an unscheduled unannounced two hour “interview” at my office.

This L.A. Times hit piece is a sad example of what journalism has become but, also deeply concerning for how political motivation and false allegations can often permanently scar a private business person’s good name.

Sincerely,
Bill Wages Vortex Construction

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