He is running on his veteran status. Resigned his JAG officer commission to get commissioned as an Infantry officer.
A company owned and run by South Carolina’s Democratic candidate for governor was blacklisted as a contractor for the Department of Veterans Affairs following allegations that he was selling his veteran status to corporations so they could tap into federal contracting dollars intended to help disabled vets.
James Smith works as a state legislator and lawyer, and also runs the Congaree Group, which has received millions of dollars in federal government contracts. The company operates out of Smith’s law firm suite, and he once told the VA he was its only employee.
On paper, the company has done everything from manufacturing pharmaceuticals to mopping floors and from parking cars to conducting advanced mathematical analysis.
On May 17, VA officials arrived for a surprise inspection, VA Deputy Assistant Secretary James Hutton told The Daily Caller News Foundation. The purpose was to find out if Smith was running a middleman company used to win lucrative federal contracts earmarked for disabled veterans, then passing all the work off to non-veteran companies in exchange for a cut for himself. Such so-called rent-a-vet scams are forbidden.
Smith’s company declined to cooperate with the VA and failed to provide evidence that the business was legitimate, Hutton said. On May 31, the VA’s Center for Verification and Evaluation issued a “Notice of Proposed Cancellation,” which would lead to the Congaree Group being stripped of its preferred, disabled-veteran contractor status if not resolved, according to Hutton. The Congaree Group still “did not provide the requested documents” explaining itself, he said.
On July 11, one month after Smith won the primary election, the VA banned the company from its preferential status, according to Hutton. The Congaree Group no longer appears on the VA’s list of approved veteran-owned businesses.
A 2013 VA audit concluded that “it appears that [Smith] uses his [disabled veteran] status to secure VA set-aside contracts and pass the performance of such contracts to various non-Veteran entities. Such conduct is prohibited.”
Smith “does not have the specialty skills required to perform on several of the contracts he has secured,” the audit said, noting that the Congaree Group holds contracts across a variety of industries worth over $1 million. “It is reasonable to conclude that the Congaree Group functions as a middleman to enable various non-Veteran entities like BDI Pharma to secure the actual contract” in violation of rules.