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McCarthy brother-in-law under scrutiny for earning federal contracts based on Native American identity claim

McCarthy brother-in-law under scrutiny for earning federal contracts based on Native American identity claim
© Greg Nash

A company owned by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyHouse Republicans need history lesson in battle over next leader Trump’s hard lesson for Republicans: Fight back The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by T-Mobile — Congress returns to leadership races, lame-duck drama MORE's (R-Calif.) in-laws was awarded more than $7 million in federal contracts based on McCarthy’s brother-in-law's disputed claim of Native American identity, according to a Los Angeles Times investigation published Sunday.

The Times reported that McCarthy's in-laws were awarded the contracts through a federal program that aims to help minorities for a company called Vortex Construction, which is owned by William Wages, the brother of McCarthy’s wife.

The company has been awarded $7.6 million in federal contracts since 2000, according to the Times.

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The Times reported that the contracts were largely for construction projects at two Naval stations: the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake and the Naval Air Station Lemoore.

The company is co-owned by McCarthy's mother-in-law, and his father-in-law and sister-in-law are employed there, Wages told the Times. Additionally, McCarthy's wife was a partner at the company during the 1990s, the Times reported.

According to the Times, the Small Business Administration accepted a claim from Wages that he is a Cherokee, allowing the company to receive the contracts. 

Wages reportedly claims he is one-eighth Cherokee, and told the Times that he would be “very surprised” to learn he is not of Cherokee descent.

The Times said that the claim appears dubious based on an examination of government and tribal records by the newspaper and a Cherokee genealogist.

The group that Wages is a member of, the Northern Cherokee Nation, is not recognized as a legitimate tribe by either the state or the federal government and is considered fraudulent by leaders of recognized tribes, according to the Times.

McCarthy, who has been majority leader of the House since 2014, declined interviews with the Times but said in written statements that he didn't help Wages qualify for the SBA program or earn federal contracts.

“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 to program standards,” McCarthy said in a statement.