Fact Checking Claims in the Fifth District Congressional Race
The contentious nomination contest in Virginia’s Fifth Congressional District has taken an ugly turn as of late, as rumors, innuendo, and anonymous accusations bring controversy to the closing days of the race before its conclusion at the Fifth District Convention next Saturday, on May 14th.
Candidate Michael Del Rosso first went negative back in January, absurdly accusing Senator Tom Garrett of being “the establishment” – despite Garrett’s early endorsements from conservative stalwarts including Senator Dick Black, E. W. Jackson, and Michael Farris, none of whom are particularly known for endorsing “establishment” candidates.
However, it wasn’t until the last month of the race that the most spurious accusations and anonymous mudslinging would be on full display. Following repeated anonymous attacks on Garrett from mass email and illegally unattributed robocalls, parties unknown pushed back, questioning Del Rosso’s record of advising public policymakers on national security matters, while raising questions concerning whether Del Rosso’s business record is indeed what he claims.
For the record, Garrett’s campaign has denied being the source of these attacks against Del Rosso, saying instead it preferred to focus on Tom’s record in the Virginia Senate. Likewise, candidate Jim McKelvey and a spokesman for the campaign of Joe Whited both denied being involved with any negative campaigning, public or private, against anyone.
Somebody made these high-profile attacks, though, and that warrants an investigation.
Was Del Rosso A National Security Adviser to Ted Cruz?
On the campaign trail, Del Rosso frequently espouses his prior work as a national security “adviser” to a variety of legislators and other public figures, claiming this expertise is what sets him apart from the rest of the field. While some leave meetings impressed, others have made accusations that Del Rosso’s claims of advisory credentials may be too good to be true.
Among the highest profile names invoked by Del Rosso and his allies on the campaign trail is that of Texas Senator Ted Cruz, formerly the presidential favorite of the party’s conservative wing, and a well-liked figure among the convention-going crowd who will decide this race’s nominee.
One particularly clear and striking utterance was made at the Campbell County Mass Meeting on March 5th, 2016, where Del Rosso told the assembled crowd:
“I voted for Ted Cruz for all the obvious reasons. But I’ll tell you, I was at Paul Teller, his Chief of Staff’s house a couple of months ago for dinner, and the conversation there, they’d have been happy to have a Trump-Cruz candidacy that put Ted as Vice President and President for 16 years. So the thing you have to remember though is the only three guys that I even cared about were Cruz, Carson, and Trump – the outliers – I’ve advised all three of those campaigns on national security.”
Don’t take Bearing Drift’s word for it – listen to Del Rosso in his own words:
This statement is to political commentators what a five alarm inferno is to firemen. To begin, his claim that Cruz would have embraced serving as Vice President within a Donald Trump administration is suspect on its face, as is his claim that Cruz’s Chief of Staff would so carelessly let a high-level tidbit of presidential strategy slip out during dinner. Del Rosso made the statement in the beginning of March; Cruz’s campaign to wrestle the nomination from Trump would carry on for nearly two months following the remark.
This mishandling of purportedly confidential campaign strategy should be concerning to every delegate seeking a leader on matters of national security, where confidential information cannot be allowed to leak. If true, it would have been harder for Del Rosso to mishandle this information any more carelessly without setting up an unsecured email server of his own.
However, the heart and soul of the statement lies in his claim to have served as a national security adviser for Ted Cruz. Virginia’s own Ken Cuccinelli makes fact checking this claim easy.
Cuccinelli, who served as a top surrogate for Cruz’s presidential campaign, had this to say, in a written statement provided to Bearing Drift:
“I have had the opportunity to speak with all of the individuals responsible for working with Senator Cruz to develop his policy positions, including in the areas of foreign policy and national security. They in turn inquired of Senator Cruz’s Senate office as well.”
“The result of the aforementioned inquiry is that it has been absolutely confirmed that Michael del Rosso has never served as an advisor in any capacity to Senator Cruz in either his presidential campaign or in his Senate office. Any statement to the contrary would be false.”
Comparing the stump speech of a candidate with no documented ties to Cruz against the statement of a top Cruz lieutenant and campaign insider is easy. Nobody can honestly believe that Del Rosso served as a national security adviser for Ted Cruz when one of the Senator’s own authorized, top-level surrogates confirms otherwise.
Accordingly, Del Rosso’s claim is clearly false.
Missing Income and Missing Offices?
The other large source of controversy has focused around accusations that Del Rosso embellished his record as a technology entrepreneur or executive to bolster his campaign biography. As recently as May 10th, Del Rosso’s campaign manager Gray Delaney defended this record in an op-ed published at The Bull Elephant.
“Michael has NEVER embellished the success of the current three small companies* he is involved with,” wrote Delaney, on May 10th.
“The company [Nimaya, Inc.] is an ongoing concern with solid annual revenues from high margin software licenses,” continued Delaney, in a footnote. “This is one of the ways Michael pays his bills, in addition to consulting revenue.”
These statements are at odds with his own personal financial disclosure statement filed with the Clerk of the House of Representatives, which lists his ownership of and income associated with the three businesses as follows:
According to Del Rosso’s financial statement, none of his three companies at the center of the controversy paid him any income in either 2016 or 2015.
In a follow-up conversation with Bearing Drift, Delaney provided information he claims was not included in the original op-ed. He said Del Rosso has been receiving money from Nimaya, though it was categorized for tax purposes as a return of prior investment capital, rather than earned income.
According to his financial statement, Del Rosso’s chief source of traditional income is his work for Grey Castle Group, Inc., a North Carolina based technology company in which Del Rosso reported no ownership interest, no income in 2016, and $89,000 income in 2015.
Del Rosso’s three companies at the center of the controversy are Nimaya, Inc., Logical Technical Services (LTS) Corp., and Acuity Tech Solutions, Inc. The former two claim to be based in Washington, D. C., whereas the latter is claimed by Del Rosso as a Charlottesville-area entity through which he performs consulting work.
As a second point of confirmation, Del Rosso’s House financial disclosure statement also lists Nimaya and LTS as being based in Washington, D. C. – not Charlottesville, and not elsewhere.
A quick visit to the office building on G Street reveals that Suite 601 is currently occupied by Artemis Strategies, a DC-based lobbying firm, which is listed as the tenant on both the building’s directory and the door at the entrance to Suite 601.
Furthermore, when asked, three employees who have worked on the building’s sixth floor for years had no recollection of Nimaya or LTS having been tenants during their employment.
In response, Del Rosso’s campaign insisted his two companies used this address to receive their mail by agreement with an acquaintance of Del Rosso who works with Artemis, rather than using the usual post office box or other private mailbox.
In its marketing materials, Nimaya has also claimed a presence in tower suite T-300 at the Silverline Center, located at 7900 Westpark Drive in McLean. Likewise, a visit to this location found that not only is Nimaya not located anywhere in the building’s directory, but the entire third floor in the tower portion of the Center is currently under construction, and houses no tenants at all.
A third address listing for Nimaya through Whitepages pointed to a location in Suite 2000 at 11710 Plaza America Drive in Reston. Suite 2000, which occupies the building’s second floor, currently lists 82 tenants in the building’s directory, all of whom sub-lease private and shared office space from Metro Offices, a sub-leasing company which provides office space to businesses on both a fixed monthly and per-hour basis.
A shared secretary serving tenants in Suite 2000 had no record of Nimaya, LTS, or Michael Del Rosso ever having been a tenant at this location.
According to its website, Nimaya also maintains a software “development center” in Bangalore, India, though Del Rosso says that office is no longer active.
Del Rosso’s campaign insisted his businesses exist “in the cloud,” referring to the virtual, network-driven organizational model embraced by many emergent technology companies which operate with a reduced or nonexistent physical presence.
Assessing the truth underlying this second batch of claims is more convoluted than his first statement. Although two of his businesses claim a physical “headquarters” in a manner which would lead an ordinary person to believe they have independent, physical offices of their own, Del Rosso hasn’t been campaigning on his office space. A bank’s loan officer might find these claims misleading, but convention delegates are another matter.
The claims related to income are slightly more clear. Although the campaign’s subsequent clarification may in fact be true, the op-ed and everything before it gave delegates the impression that he was receiving income from company profits, rather than withdrawing previously invested capital. Applying Politifact’s ruling criteria, this statement would be mostly false.
To the critics, Nimaya has not posted a news item on its website in over six years – not since 2010 – a circumstance they suggest signals its disengagement from active innovation. Del Rosso’s campaign maintains Nimaya is not a growth-oriented enterprise, but rather, generates revenue from legacy software licenses while Michael focuses his attention primarily on public policy.
Truth or Consequences for the Del Rosso Campaign
The factuality of Del Rosso’s first claim is easy to assess. Del Rosso and his surrogates have claimed he served as a national security adviser to Ted Cruz. Ken Cuccinelli, an top Cruz surrogate and authorized spokesman for the Cruz campaign, definitively spoke against Del Rosso’s claim, after inquiring among his colleagues within the campaign and the Senator’s office in Washington.
“The result of the aforementioned inquiry is that it has been absolutely confirmed that Michael del Rosso has never served as an advisor in any capacity to Senator Cruz in either his presidential campaign or in his Senate office,” wrote Cuccinelli. “Any statement to the contrary would be false.”
Accordingly, the first of the two claims is clearly false.
Finding the truth or lack thereof in the second group of claims is a tougher challenge.
Here’s what is known: two of Del Rosso’s companies purportedly located in Northern Virginia are registered corporations, even if they lack active business registrations in the District. While they don’t operate the physical offices they claim, that doesn’t appear to be a major issue in the campaign. According to his own personal financial disclosure statement, Del Rosso hasn’t earned any income from his owned businesses, even though he claims one helps pay his bills by remitting to him previously invested capital.
As for this second set of claims, Fifth District delegates will have to decide for themselves.
Disclosure: I assisted Garrett with his campaign in January and the first week of February, but have not provided assistance since then, have not been paid since then, and maintain no ongoing ties to the Fifth District, its nominating contest, or the current Garrett campaign. I won’t be at the Fifth District convention, and had no plans to cover this race until this latest round of alleged falsehoods left many delegates asking for a fact check.