CA Dem T.J. Cox Failed to Disclose Business Ties, Including to Foreign Biz

Investigation comes on the heels of audit blasting nonprofit also tied to Cox

T.J. Cox
T.J. Cox / Getty Images
April 2, 2019

California Representative T.J. Cox failed to disclose a number of his business interests on required congressional disclosure forms during the 2018 campaign in which the Democrat prevailed over Republican incumbent David Valadao by fewer than 1,000 votes.

The incomplete disclosures, first reported by the Fresno Bee, failed to show Cox's interest in at least five companies, including his position as a board member to Constellation Mines, Ltd., a for-profit Canadian mining company.

While the stake in that company should have been listed, the board position would also run afoul of new campaign finance and ethical requirements currently being pushed by Democrats in Congress, and for which Cox has been a vocal supporter.

Cox told a reporter with the McClatchy Washington Bureau that extricating himself from some of his businesses is complicated.

"You don't put together 10 or 15 years worth of businesses and get out overnight," he said.

The Bee's report added that Cox said he wanted to be transparent and to remove all doubts about potential conflicts of interest.

This latest investigation comes nearly two months after an audit by the city of Fresno blasted a locally based nonprofit for which Cox was the treasurer, citing dozens of questionable transactions and lack of accurate record keeping. The local district attorney announced an investigation into the matter that is still underway.

The freshman lawmaker does not appear to have answered any media questions on the audit's findings. The Washington Free Beacon attempted to get some kind of on the record response just over a month ago in the halls of a congressional office building as the representative was on his way to a subcommittee meeting. At that time, Cox directed all questions to his media staff, but follow-up communications were not returned.

Another request for comment left Tuesday went unanswered prior to publication.

The nonprofit is also delinquent in some of its required filings with the California Registry of Charitable Trusts. According to a letter sent by the California AG, the nonprofit failed to provide a copy to the state of its federal 2017 IRS form 990.

Currently, it is unclear if a 990 for fiscal year 2017 has been filed with the IRS at all.

On March 1, a representative with the nonprofit signed for a letter from the Free Beacon requesting a copy of the 2017 990; the Free Beacon has yet to receive a response. Text messages were also sent directly to Cox requesting the form. Nonprofits are required by law to make their three most recent 990s available upon request.

A document filed March 7 with the California secretary of state shows Cox has subsequently removed himself from the nonprofit.

The Bee report also looked at possible disclosure violations related to rental property owned by the congressman, but questions about those properties were not returned by Cox's office, the paper said.

Cox was elected to California's 21st Congressional District in November after he switched races. The Fresno businessman had originally moved to be able to compete in the state's 10th Congressional District, but switched back to the 21st, which covers Fresno after another leading Democrat dropped out of that race.

Before Cox flipped back to the race in the 21st, the San Jose Mercury News highlighted other problems and questionable dealings from his past.

"In 2015, his own lawyers sued him for not paying his legal bills, and a judge ordered him to pay more than $49,000, including interest, according to Fresno County court records," the paper said. "He later paid the bill."

"Cox and his wife, Kathleen, were also hit with an IRS tax lien last year for $48,362 in unpaid income tax, county records show," the same report noted. "He paid the taxes and the lien was released in January, according to a document provided by his campaign."