Top House Republican's Family Reportedly Benefitted from Dubious Claim of Cherokee Ancestry

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Familial grift and moral turpitude is nothing new for Republicans in the Trump era. Still, even by the abysmally low standards set by Congressman Duncan Hunter and First Lady of the Treasury Louise Linton, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s family may have taken the lead for cartoonish villainy.


According to a Los Angeles Times investigation, McCarthy’s brother-in-law William Wages was awarded more than $7 million in federal construction contracts since 2000 for his work on a number of military and government sites. As the Times reported, those grants—frequently assigned without collecting bids from other potential contractors—were awarded as part of a federal Small Business Administration program designed to benefit minority-owned companies, and had been given to Wages’ Vortex Construction company based on a 1998 claim that he was one-eighth Cherokee.

There’s just one problem. Per the Times:

An examination of government and tribal records by The Times and a leading Cherokee genealogist casts doubt on that claim [that Wages claims Native ancestry], 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.

McCarthy’s wife was formerly a partner at Vortex, which currently employs the majority leader’s mother-in-law, father-in-law, and sister-in-law. In a statement to the Times, McCarthy carefully put some distance between himself and his brother-in-law’s dubious 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.

While McCarthy was not directly involved in awarding the SBA grant to Wages, the Times also noted that he had earmarked more than $2.5 million for the development of the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake in his district—one of the sites for which Wages had been awarded a federal grant.

Wages himself has denied any nepotism in his contract windfall, telling the Times that anyone who suggests his brother-in-law—one of the most powerful men in Washington, and the Paul Ryan-endorsed frontrunner to be the next Republican House leader—helped him get the government’s money is a “liar,” and that he would be “very surprised” to learn he wasn’t actually Native American.


Meanwhile, after years of being taunted by President Trump as a “Pocahontas” who unduly benefitted from her own claim of Native ancestry (a lie), Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren released the results of an extensive DNA examination on Monday. That test concluded that she did, in fact, have Native American ancestors.

Senior writer. When in doubt he'll have the soup.