Politics

Waltz Fixes Financial Disclosure After Consulting Company Omission

Florida Republican’s company led group of defense manufacturers to Libya in 2013

(Courtesy Michael Waltz for U.S. Congress)

Florida congressional candidate Michael Waltz originally did not divulge on his financial disclosure form to run for office that he owned a 50 percent stake in a consulting firm that led U.S. aerospace and defense manufacturers on a trip to Libya in 2013 to meet with government officials there.

Waltz, the Republican candidate for Florida’s open 6th District seat and a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, has since filed an amendment to his financial disclosure form listing himself as a partner in the defense consulting firm, Askari Associates, LLC.

The amendment was added to his file at the House Clerk’s office this past Sunday, Sept. 16.

Askari co-founder and former Assistant Secretary of Defense Mary Beth Long confirmed in a Sept. 11 interview with Roll Call that Waltz, who is listed on multiple defense think tank websites as a co-founder and partner at Askari, still has an ownership stake in the company.

Long said Askari produces minimal revenue — and one year did not produce any at all — because their sole client has “a different fiscal calendar” and “they tend to catch up sporadically.”

“It’s maddeningly delayed some years,” Long said.

The House Ethics Committee’s disclosure rules state that any “partner” in a limited liability company who is running for a House seat must report that position on his financial disclosure forms “regardless of whether or not compensation was received.”

It’s not unusual for candidates to file amendments to their financial disclosures since many of them have extensive financial portfolios and sources of income, Adav Noti, the senior director at the Campaign Legal Center who worked at the Federal Elections Commission’s Office of General Counsel from 2007 to 2017, said.

Waltz is unlikely to face much scrutiny from ethics officials over his disclosure, especially now that he has amended it.

“Amendments to the personal financial disclosures are pretty common and they very rarely lead to any sort of penalty,” Noti said.

Waltz submitted his original disclosure July 28, but soon realized he had left off Askari and Campaign Partners, Inc., a fundraising software for charities, his campaign said.

“When I realized I had inadvertently left off two companies, I attempted to amend my financial disclosure the same day,” Waltz said in a statement.

“I apparently missed a field which caused an error and prevented the form from fully submitting and leaving the form in limbo. I appreciate the House Clerk’s Office assistance in helping me correct the issue,” he said.

Waltz left a message with the House Clerk’s office to ask about the status on his amendment form on Sept. 12, a day after Roll Call had spoken with Long, his former business partner, about the discrepancy on the financial disclosure form.

A representative at the Clerk’s office left him a message, reviewed by Roll Call, saying he had not completed the amendment, which is why it wasn’t “showing up.”

On Sept. 16, Waltz submitted the amendment listing his stakes in Askari and Campaign Partners and received an automated email notification that the file had been received, which was provided to Roll Call.

“That is not an implausible scenario,” Noti said of Waltz’ struggle to submit his amendment.

Candidates submit their forms to the Federal Elections Commission, which does not have any oversight over the process but merely acts as a collection service. They file their disclosures on the same online portal as high-ranking federal officials in the executive branch.

“It really is possible that somebody could fill it out and not click the final step because it’s not a well-designed system,” Noti said.

In September 2013, Askari led a contingent of roughly eight to 11 aerospace and defense manufacturers — including Lockheed Martin, Iomax, and others — to Tripoli where they met with the newly installed minister of defense and other military leaders, according to Long, who represented Askari on the trip, and a press release from October of that year on Askari’s website.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce set up all the meetings with the Libyan officials, where they focused mostly on “understanding Libya’s border situation more clearly, specifically with Egypt,” Long said.

Ambassador Christopher Stevens, who was killed a year earlier in the terrorist attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, had asked Long at a breakfast shortly before he died to help bring U.S. and Canadian manufacturers to the country that was plunged in civil war, she said.

GOP Rep. Ron DeSantis, who represented Florida’s 6th District resigned last week to focus on his bid for governor against Democrat Andrew Gillum.

He will be replaced by either Waltz or Democrat Nancy Soderberg.

Soderberg had nearly quadruple the amount of cash on hand as Waltz at the end of the second filing quarter, the FEC’s online database shows.

But Waltz has a distinct advantage given the district’s recent voter history: President Donald Trump carried Florida’s 6th District by 17 points in 2016.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Likely Republican.

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.