Home 2020 Elections Katherine White: No One Is Above the Law – Not the President…and...

Katherine White: No One Is Above the Law – Not the President…and Not Del. Nick Freitas (R)

Today, I filed a letter of complaint with the Virginia Conflict of Interest and Ethics Advisory Council

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by Katherine White, Network NoVA Program Director

President Trump and his administration have set a low standard of good governance, by not only making a point of breaking norms and traditions that serve the American people’s trust in good government, but by also firing five – yes five! – Inspector Generals.[1] Yes, citizens should see your taxes Mr. President. And yes, Delegate Nick Freitas (the Republican nominee for Congress in VA07), you need to file your official financial disclosure paperwork correctly. That should be a given.[2]

This new law bar for transparency and accountability means that, as citizens, we will have to take the law into our own hands – the right way. We must demand that public officials are held accountable, by using the appropriate and fair tools of provided to us by our government. I did just that on October 19, when I filed a letter of complaint with the Virginia Conflict of Interest and Ethics Advisory Council against Delegate Nick Freitas.

As a candidate for elected office, Freitas has earned a reputation for being late and careless in filing legal paperwork. He was forced to run a write-in campaign in 2019 just to maintain his seat in the House of Delegates. Then Freitas did it again: he was late to submit the necessary paperwork with the Board of Elections to appear on the 2020 general election ballot.[3] Aria Branch, a lawyer for the DCCC, who questioned the legality of the Boards decision to extend the filing extension, stated that “They [Nick Freitas’ and Bob Good’s campaigns] were negligent…And this really is just a failure on their part to comply with the rules.”[4]

In the end, Del. Nick Freitas did get on the ballot, after being granted a extension – and to be fair, so did six other candidates. So now, Freitas will be on the ballot as the Republican candidate running against the incumbent Democrat, Rep. Abigail Spanberger, both vying for the 7th Congressional District seat. But it isn’t for these reasons that I filed a complaint against Freitas and asked for an immediate investigation – it was because this time Freitas’ error was far more serious.

If you weren’t paying attention, let me bring you up to speed: Delegate Freitas’ latest and greatest error was reported by Kate Ackley and Stephanie Akin in Roll Call on October 1, 2020 where they revealed that Freitas had dueling discrepancies in his financial disclosure paperwork, where he reportedly filed to the state one version of his salary, and to Congress, another amount.[5] This reported error is of more concern, as it may involve a breach of ethics. Elected representatives and candidates for office are held to a high standard in the law, under our Virginia Code and directly under the General Assembly Conflicts of Interests Act (§ 30-100).[6]

 Here is the deeper background if you missed it on Twitter or in the news:

Delegate Freitas had reported in 2019 Statement of Economic Interests (SEI) filing for the General Assembly that he received less than $50,001 in gross income from Gold Team Consulting, LLC. He did the same in 2020. However, when Freitas filed the federal financial disclosure for filing year 2019 and 2020, he reported earning $130,900 from Gold Team Consulting, LLC. It appears that Mr. Freitas may have underreported income on at least one Statement of Economic Interests (SEI).

If Mr. Freitas made false statements on his reporting, this underreporting of income may constitute a violation of General Assembly Conflicts of Interests Act (30-111(B) – and that is pretty darn serious. That is why I requested that this matter be looked into by the Virginia Conflict of Interest and Ethics Advisory Council and also be referred to the appropriate bodies, including the House of Delegates or the Attorney General.

It will be up to the folks at the Council to act swiftly to investigate this matter – one that should be of concern to any voter or citizen. We need and deserve representatives who take the code of conduct seriously – and also who pay attention to facts and figures, rules and deadlines. Because no one is above the law. Not the President, not even Nick Freitas.

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[1] POLITIFACT: “Trump Pushed Out 5 Inspector Generals”: by Bill McCarthy

https://www.politifact.com/article/2020/may/19/trump-has-pushed-out-5-inspectors-general-april-he/

[2] Winter 2018 Political Norms, Constitutional Conventions, and President Donald Trump by Neil S. Siegel: Duke Law School: https://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=11282&context=ilj: May 19, 2020

[3]https://bluevirginia.us/2020/06/ive-confirmed-that-gop-congressional-candidates-nick-freitas-and-bob-good-have-both-failed-to-file-the-correct-paperwork-with-va-dept-of-elections

[4] Virginia Mercury: https://www.virginiamercury.com/2020/07/07/virginia-elections-board-votes-to-allow-freitas-good-on-ballot-despite-late-filings/

[5] Kate Ackley and Stephanie Akin in RollCall.com on October 1, 2020: “Dueling Disclosures: Virginia Candidate Nick Freitas Tells  State One Salary, Congress Another.” https://www.rollcall.com/2020/10/01/dueling-disclosures-virginia-candidate-freitas-tells-state-one-salary-congress-another/

[6]VA Law: Code of Virginia: https://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacodepopularnames/general-assembly-conflicts-of-interests-act/#:~:text=The%20General%20Assembly%2C%20recognizing%20that,declares%20that%20the%20citizens%20are