Texas Democrat has a long history of ethical issues
Collin Anderson • October 5, 2022 5:00 am
Texas Democratic Congressman Vicente Gonzalez has funneled tens of thousands of dollars in campaign funds to a company he owns and runs, a move condemned by liberal media and ethics experts while he was employed by former President Donald Trump.
Since 2018, Gonzalez has sent $33,000 to a trite-sounding real estate management company, Tenant Services LLC, for office rent, according to Federal Information on campaign finance. As it turns out, Gonzalez owns the company, the financial statements and corporate records that were obtained from him Washington Free Beacon Show. The setup allows Gonzalez to use his job as a politician to rake in more than just his congressional salary, which earns the Democrat $174,000 a year.
Members of Congress are allowed to pay office rent themselves as long as the monthly amount reflects a fair market rate. Nonetheless, similar arrangements have drawn criticism from ethics experts. For example, when Trump’s political entity used donor funds to rent office space in Trump Tower, the Huffington Post and the Washington Post quoted watchdog groups as calling the setup “shoddy,” “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 money to pay for a company he owns and nearly $40,000. “You should not run for office or hold office for personal gain in any way,” Sabato said said the New York Post. “Trump was a master at that.”
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 wrongfully claimed a tax exemption on two separate properties, saving the couple thousands of dollars in taxes Texas Grandstand reported in August. About two months earlier, a Business Insider 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 trades no later than 45 days after they are made.
Gonzalez did not respond to a request for comment. The Democrat serves as the “owner and director” of Tenant Services, according to his latest House of Representatives financial report. Company records obtained from the Free beacon also lists Gonzalez as sole director of the company.
Gonzalez isn’t the only Texas Democrat paying campaign office rent himself, though he’s been less forthcoming about the arrangement compared to his Lone Star State counterparts. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D., Texas) cuts in $750 check each month for “office rent and furnishings” — these payouts specifically indicate that Cuellar “personally owns and manages” the building from which his campaign rents are derived. In Gonzalez’s case, an LLC with a generic name makes the connection less obvious.
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 “legal fees” from the firm in 2021, its financial statements show.
Before beginning his political career, Gonzalez agreed to represent a number of controversial clients through his firm. In the late 1990s, for example, the Democrat was hired to defend a string of drug dealers who conspired to distribute thousands of pounds of marijuana, nearly half a pound of cocaine, and eight pounds of MDMA Free beacon reported in July. One of Gonzalez’s clients, Richard Contreras, pleaded guilty after conspiring to import more than 2,200 pounds of marijuana from Mexico. Another, Frank Tijerina, led 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 to maintain “law and order.”
Gonzalez joined Congress in 2017, replacing longtime Democratic incumbent Rubén Hinojosa in Texas’ 15th congressional district. After traveling for re-election in 2018, Gonzalez faced an unexpectedly close race in 2020 against Republican Monica de la Cruz, whom he defeated by just 3 points.
That result prompted Gonzalez to run in 2022 in Texas’ 34th congressional district instead, as the seat became significantly bluer from the state’s new district process. But Republicans remain hopeful that Flores can beat Gonzalez next November, especially after Flores became the in June first woman born in Mexico Elected to Congress and the first Republican to represent portions of the 34th congressional district since 1870. In that race, Flores beat her Democratic opponent Dan Sanchez in historically blue areas like Cameron County, which is 90 percent Hispanic and voted Biden by double digits in 2020. Flores has $1.8 million to Gonzalez’s $2.3 million upset.