A former aide to Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) who was arrested Thursday and charged with thefts that allegedly occurred in a House office building also got into trouble at a previous place of employment.
A spokesman for a charity known as the Armed Forces Foundation told TPM on Tuesday that Javier Sanchez was fired from there in 2007 for making unauthorized public appearances and “for misrepresenting his role within the Foundation.”However, the dismissal did not prevent Sanchez from subsequently becoming a high-ranking Hill staffer. He went on to work in the offices of Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Bachmann, where he most recently worked as a senior legislative assistant. The charity’s spokesman told TPM that no one from either of the congressional offices contacted the foundation in an attempt to vet Sanchez before hiring him.
Sanchez, 37, came to Armed Forces Foundation in March 2006. The foundation is a non-profit dedicated to providing “vital assistance to active-duty and retired military personnel, National Guard, Reserve Components and military families.” According to the charity’s spokesman, Sanchez was fired about 15 months later.
“Javier Sanchez was employed at the Armed Forces Foundation from March 2006 until June 2007. He was dismissed for violating Foundation policies regarding public appearances that were not authorized by the Foundation and for misrepresenting his role within the Foundation–the Armed Forces Foundation has never employed lobbyists or government relations staff,” the spokesman said in a written statement.
Sanchez used the “government relations” title during at least one public appearance during his time there. On May 26, 2007, Sanchez spoke at a Memorial Day rally honoring veterans and hosted by the organization Rolling Thunder. At that event, he was introduced as the foundation’s “director of government relations and development.”
After his firing from the charity, Sanchez continued to be identified as having previously held the “government relations” title at the Armed Forces Foundation. An article about an event benefiting the charity that was published in The Hill on June 27, 2007 described Sanchez as a “former AFF director of government relations.” In September 2007, Sanchez joined the National Association of Federal Credit Unions as an associate director of legislative affairs. The press release announcing his hiring referred to him as having “previously served as director of government relations for the Armed Forces Foundation” as did subsequent NAFCU communications.
On Wednesday, Sanchez’s attorney, David Benowitz, disputed the Armed Forces Foundation’s account of his client’s dismissal.
“My understanding is that was what his title was: director of government affairs,” Benowitz told TPM. “There may have been a disagreement about what his role should be … or there may have been a perception that he was spending too much time on the Hill.”
Benowitz also implied there were issues at the charity that led many employees to have a short stay there.
“Apparently, the average stay is a year or less for anyone working there, so that should tell you, you know, sort of where — you know, and a lot of this is ego problems,” said Benowitz.
Additionally, Benowitz provided TPM with a mockup of a business card that identified Sanchez’s title as the foundation’s “director of government relations and development.” He also provided a document showing what he described as a 2006 email exchange between Sanchez and the foundation’s head, Patricia Driscoll, where the title “director of government relations” appeared in Sanchez’s email signature.
After leaving the foundation, Sanchez worked at NAFCU until March 30, 2011, when, according to staff salary records, he began working as a legislative assistant in Foxx’s office. This January, salary records show, he began working as a senior legislative assistant to Bachmann.
According to the AFF spokesperson, neither NAFCU or the congresswomen’s offices contacted the foundation to ask about Sanchez’s work there. “Since June 2007, the AFF has not been contacted by any employers regarding Mr. Sanchez’s tenure at the Foundation,” the spokesperson said.
TPM reached out to both Bachmann and Foxx’s offices to ask how Sanchez’s issues with his past employer did not come to light during their hiring processes. Neither office responded to requests for comment.
A spokesperson for Bachmann told the Associated Press earlier this week that Sanchez was no longer with the congresswoman’s office as of last Friday. Bachmann was asked about the theft investigation Wednesday afternoon on Fox News. She declined to talk about the case and referred questions to the police.
According to Washington television station WRC, Sanchez was arrested after U.S. Capitol Police placed a hidden camera and two envelopes containing $80 and $120 in Bachmann’s office in April. On June 25, the money was reported missing. Charging documents said surveillance footage had showed a man taking the money from the drawer of Bachmann’s chief of staff on June 14. The charging documents said Sanchez’s boss identified him as the person in the video. Two previous thefts from Bachmann’s office had been reported in February and March.
Benowitz told the TV station Sanchez was denying the charges. The charging documents said Benowitz also denied taking money from his colleagues’ desks when he was interviewed about the issue by police last week.
“I may have taken a quarter once and a while, but I would pay it back,” Sanchez said in the affidavit.