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Feb. 5, 2023

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Joe Kent’s employment comes under scrutiny

Tax forms for 3rd District GOP candidate show discrepancies in company’s name

By , Columbian staff writer, and
, Columbian Metro Editor
Published:

Republican 3rd Congressional District candidate Joe Kent found himself the focus of scrutiny this week after a report surfaced questioning whether the company he said he works for actually exists.

Kent, a former Green Beret and CIA employee, has said in public forums and in filings with the Federal Elections Commission and House of Representatives that he is employed by a technology company called American Enterprise Solutions.

That claim was called into question in a Sunday article in the Daily Beast, a left-leaning online publication that has been described by its former editor as a “high-end tabloid.” Following up on claims by an anti-Kent website, it reported that its staffers couldn’t track “American Enterprise Solutions” through filed patents or trademarks, licenses, an online presence, or any government or private wireless provider contracts.

Questions to the Kent campaign about his employer by the Daily Beast and The Columbian went unanswered until late Tuesday, when his campaign released a statement claiming the story was “fraudulent” and that the Daily Beast was “confused about the name of Joe’s employer” — but later conceded that they had made an error in their filings.

The campaign statement went on to say that when Kent was hired, the company’s name was American Enterprise Solutions. It said the company’s name was later changed to Advanced Enterprise Solutions LLC, and provided what it said were copies of Kent’s W-2 forms submitted to the Internal Revenue Service reporting his pay and tax withholding for 2020 and 2021.

W-2 forms

There were some discrepancies with the company’s names even in the documents provided.

Kent’s W-2 form from 2020 identified his employer as Advanced Enterprise Solutions of Milford, Del., and showed Kent was paid wages of $111,799.96. The W-2 form from 2021 identified the company as Advanced Enterprises Solutions LLC of Herndon, Va., with wages of $122,110.36.

In addition to the discrepancy in the company’s name between the two forms, the company’s federal employer ID number was shown on one form but redacted on the other, making cross-checking impossible. And neither corporate name matches a registration document filed with the Virginia State Corporation Commission.

That document, found on the commission’s website, identified the company as Advanced Enterprise Solutions Group LLC, a Delaware company operating in Virginia. It also stated on Wednesday that the company’s annual registration fee is past due and that it is listed as “pending inactive.”

A check of the commission’s website on Thursday morning showed that the company’s information had been updated on Thursday and that it was now listed as “active.”

A search for the company’s name on OpenCorporates, an open database of corporate records, showed that between December 2019 and December 2020, Advanced Enterprise Solutions Group LLC, “used in Virginia by Advanced Enterprise Solutions LLC,” changed its name to Advanced Enterprise Solutions Group LLC.

A filing with the Delaware Division of Corporations showed a company named Advanced Enterprise Solutions LLC was incorporated in Delaware on Jan. 31, 2019 — the same day Advanced Enterprise Solutions Group LLC was formed in Virginia.

Those changes predate Kent’s using American Enterprise Solutions as his employer in 34 individual contributions to a variety of political causes, including WinRed, the House Freedom Fund and the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, between May 1, 2020 and July 31, 2021.

It also predates his use of “American enterprise solutions” as a source of earned income in an April 19, 2022, financial disclosure report to the clerk of the House of Representatives.

A document search through OpenCorporates was unable to locate the company as American Enterprise Solutions LLC, either as an active or inactive company.

The campaign did not reply to a request from The Columbian to clarify the situation beyond its Tuesday evening statement, but Kent and his senior policy adviser, Matt Braynard, told Oregon Public Broadcasting that the mixing up of names of his employer in statements and official filings was a mistake.

“There’s a good chance I screwed it up,” Kent told OPB.

Braynard said the wrong employer name in the contributions by Kent was possibly an earlier error that was repeated by an auto-fill function on later donations. He described the misstated reference to American Enterprise Solutions on the financial disclosure form with the clerk of the House of Representatives as a “typo” that was his fault.

“I accept full responsibility for the transcription error,” Braynard said in an email early Tuesday to OPB. “We will be updating/amending the report posthaste.”

Details unclear

Some details about the company remain unclear, regardless of its name. The Tuesday statement from Kent’s campaign said the firm “collects research/intelligence throughout the world on cellular infrastructure which is then sent to telecommunications firms who are pursuing contracts to upgrades (sic) that infrastructure, most recently involving the transition to 5G technology.”

It said Kent’s role with the company is to “hire and oversee contractors around the world who conduct the research on the ground and then to validate that research with AES engineers and turn it into a marketable product.” It also said the company switched to fully remote work in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It listed the name of the company’s CEO as Sean Reed but offered no further details, other than including a statement from an associate from Ambrose Partners, a Washington, D.C., law firm, stating that Kent is “employed by a U.S. company” that wishes to not be identified, saying that while individuals are free to participate in politics, they as a company do not.

“They fully support his patriotic pursuit of civil service as they do for all citizens regardless of political affiliation,” the statement read. “We confirmed Kent’s employment with this company’s outside counsel.”

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