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Dueling disclosures: Virginia candidate Freitas tells state one salary, Congress another

One form says less than $50,000, another $130,900

This is not the first time Virginia Republican Nick Freitas has had paperwork snafus affect his campaign.
This is not the first time Virginia Republican Nick Freitas has had paperwork snafus affect his campaign. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Nick Freitas, the Republican challenging freshman Democrat Abigail Spanberger in Virginia’s 7th District, reported different amounts of 2019 income from his consulting business in financial disclosures he had to file this year as a state legislator and as a congressional candidate. 

In a Virginia state filing required for members of the House of Delegates, he disclosed that his income from Gold Team Consulting was $50,000 or less. However, in a federal disclosure filed with the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, Freitas listed his income from the business in 2019 as $130,900 — a difference of more than $80,000.

Freitas’ campaign manager, Joe Desilets, said his boss, when filling out the Virginia disclosure, had sought guidance from the state’s ethics council and, based on that guidance, had included on his 2020 form income from his firm beginning Jan. 1, 2020, to mid-February. He added that Freitas had no problem with disclosing his full annual income for 2019 given that he put it in the federal filing in May.

“Nick has always filed his [conflict of interest] form with guidance from the Ethics Council staff, as he did earlier this year, and has filed multiple required disclosures with the U.S. House Clerk’s Office that have covered this same time period,” Desilets said in a statement to CQ Roll Call.   

The discrepancy is the latest of a series of paperwork errors that have plagued Freitas’ campaign and complicated GOP efforts to win back a seat the party considered among its best pickup opportunities at the beginning of the cycle. 

Freitas was forced to appeal to the State Board of Elections to appear on the November ballot after he failed to submit state-required paperwork last summer. He was among a number of candidates who made the same mistake, blaming their confusion on changes to the state’s nominating process during the coronavirus pandemic. But the error was especially embarrassing for Freitas because he had failed to file the same paperwork for his 2019 state legislative race and was forced to run as a write-in candidate. 

The Virginia disclosure form does not expressly state the time period on the annual “statement of economic interests,” but guidance from the ethics council that is publicly available states that the reporting period covers the preceding year. The guidance further gives examples, including one that explains that if a filer owns a company, he would need to list his annual income from the business, as well as that of his spouse, and indicate the gross income from the prior year, not year to date.

The Virginia forms do not require exact figures but instead instruct filers to check one of three fields: $50,000 or less; $50,001 to $250,000; or more than $250,000.  

The guidance is “very straightforward,” said Trevor Southerland, former executive director of the Virginia House Democratic Caucus, who has handled ethics compliance matters in four states, including the Old Dominion. 

The Virginia ethics council’s guidance also says that the statement of economic interests “must be completed on the basis of your ‘best knowledge, information, and belief’ as of the date you submit it. A knowing and intentional false statement of material fact on the Statement is a Class 5 felony.” 

It does permit amended filings, according to the guidance. 

G. Stewart Petoe, executive director of the Virginia Conflict of Interest and Ethics Advisory Council, said in an email that the council does “not accept inquiries from the press” and instead provides only “confidential advice to officials and employees” who file the forms.   

Freitas, who has served in the state’s House of Delegates since 2016, also disclosed “$50,000 or less” in his 2019 Virginia statement of economic interests form. 

On the federal disclosure form, filed May 14, Freitas lists his title with Gold Team Consulting of Culpeper, Virginia, as owner and president. In addition to the $130,900 income for all of 2019, he also listed on that form that he made $51,900 from the start of 2020 through May 14. Separately, he disclosed his $24,198 salary from the state legislature in 2019, and $10,301 from the start of 2020 through May 14.

Freitas, who served in the U.S. Army Special Forces, also known as the Green Berets, lists his start date with Gold Team as May 2018 on his LinkedIn page. He also describes his work there as capture management and proposal development that relates to military contracting. He previously worked at KeyW, a government contracting firm. 

In 2018, Spanberger flipped what had till then been a safe Republican seat by defeating GOP Rep. Dave Brat, a leader in the tea party movement who four years earlier had ousted House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a GOP primary.

Republicans identified the 7th District as a top target at the beginning of the 2020 cycle. But Spanberger had almost a 5-to-1 fundraising advantage over Freitas on June 30, according to the most recent disclosures with the Federal Election Commission. 

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Tilt Democratic.

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