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Fact Check: Vulnerable California congressman has ‘shady’ business dealings, ad says

Republicans have made California Rep. TJ Cox one of their first targets in a series of ad buys nationwide, which declares the Fresno Democrat is “shady” due to some business dealings and failures to disclose certain ties.

Cox, who beat former Republican Rep. David Valadao by less than a thousand votes in the last election, is one of five Democrats the National Republican Campaign Committee decided to target in its first round. The advertisements will run on Facebook and YouTube in the respective districts.

The other targets are Reps. Collin Peterson, D-Minnesota, Haley Stevens, D-Michigan, Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon, and head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Cheri Bustos, D-Illinois.

The Ad

“Who is the real TJ Cox? Cox failed to disclose several business interests, including a foreign tie, during his candidacy. Over $1.5 million in tax liens. Failed to disclose ties to at least five businesses. What else is he hiding? A delinquent non-profit, a discrimination lawsuit, an eviction notice.”

“Cox’s shady business practices show us his true character. TJ Cox is looking out for himself and not for us.”

The final screen of the ad says Cox voted for H.R. 1 and prompts the viewer to “call TJ Cox” and “tell him to clean up his act.” H.R. 1 refers to the signature Democratic legislation passed by the House that makes it easier to vote and beefs up disclosure requirements on candidates.

Analysis

While some of the issues cited in the ad are no longer current issues for Cox or directly related to him anymore, such as the delinquent non-profit, it’s true that these issues are a part of his past.

Cox did fail to disclose five business interests on his candidate disclosure form last year, which is supposed to list all financial ties of the candidates. And one of those was a foreign business — a Canadian mining company called Constellation Mines, Ltd., where he is still listed as the current director.

The ad points out H.R. 1 because under the legislation, “a member, delegate, or resident commissioner may not serve on the board of directors of any for-profit entity,” which Cox would be violating if it were law. The bill also lays out various rules for dealing with foreign entities. It was not taken up in the Senate and therefore is not law.

Cox also has a history of tax liens against him personally and some of his businesses, but the $1.5 million figure refers to a local sheriff’s office attempt to collect a payment from one of his businesses out of an arbitration proceeding, not a lien. Cox’s office has provided documentation on all the liens that show they’ve been paid. The arbitration was also settled and paid.

The IRS tax lien against Cox and his wife personally was issued in 2017 for about $50,000, which Cox blamed on bureaucratic incompetence.

Cox’s financial disclosure form lists 24 positions and assets in 35 entities, and his office has said he is in the process of divesting from those business interests.

The “delinquent non-profit” refers to the Central Valley Community Sports Foundation, which was delinquent earlier this year — and in past years — over a failure to file mandatory paperwork on time. But its status is now current, according to the California Department of Justice records. Cox was on the management team of the foundation, but he is no longer listed on the non-profit’s tax filings.

The discrimination lawsuit is against that non-profit, as two children who use wheelchairs alleged they were discriminated against when foundation management barred them from the ice at the Gateway Ice Center, which the foundation runs. Both said they were barred from the ice in 2016 and 2017 at birthday parties, with officials telling them they couldn’t be on the ice during regular skating hours due to safety concerns.

The attorney for the children unsuccessfully tried to add Cox’s name as a defendant on the lawsuit, which would have made him personally liable in the case.

Finally, the eviction notice also relates to the foundation and the ice rink, as the foundation failed to pay its rent on the rink, according to landlord Bob Glassman, who gave the foundation until May 2 to repay him. But Glassman said Thursday that it wasn’t an eviction, but a “termination of the lease” on the property, and he didn’t blame Cox or the foundation.

“It’s nothing to do with him, it’s the City of Fresno,” Glassman said. “He did everything he could.”

Kate Irby: 202-383-6071, @KateIrby

Kate Irby is based in Washington, D.C. and reports on issues important to McClatchy’s California newspapers, including the Sacramento Bee, Fresno Bee and Modesto Bee. She previously reported on breaking news in D.C., politics in Florida for the Bradenton Herald and politics in Ohio for the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
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