Fact-Check: GOP ad claiming Jason Crow ‘neglected' Colorado veterans is misleading

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DENVER – Jason Crow, the Democratic candidate for Colorado’s 6th Congressional District, is a retired U.S. Army infantry captain who served three combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and earned the Bronze Star. He also received a “Volunteer Lawyer of the Year” award for his advocacy for Colorado veterans.

But a Republican group’s attack ad says he “neglected” Colorado veterans and, as a trial lawyer, represented a corporate executive who stole millions from a veterans’ hospital.

The narrator of the Congressional Leadership Fund TV ad is Ned Bishop, a retired Marine who lives in the suburban Denver district.

“Veterans need a congressman who will fight for us,” Bishop says, “Jason Crow fails the test.”

“While veterans suffered from the VA scandal, Crow didn’t show up for work,” Bishop adds.

This is the second ad the Congressional Leadership Fund has used to criticize Crow’s service on the Colorado Board of Veterans Affairs, where he sat from late 2009 to early 2014. The first ad says, “While veterans suffered because of mismanagement at the VA, Jason Crow didn’t show up for work, skipping a third of the board’s meetings, neglecting veterans.”

Crow did miss more than one-third of the meetings – 17 missed out of 47 total meetings -- during his nearly five years on the board. Yet, all but three absences were excused by the board’s chairperson, according to minutes of the meetings.

“This attack is politics at its worst,” Ralph Bozella, who served as chairman of the board when Crow was on it, said in a statement. “In my tenure as chair, Jason Crow was an indispensable member of the Colorado Board of Veterans Affairs. He dutifully served veterans across the state – from his tireless efforts helping bring the new VA hospital to Aurora, to his work on the homelessness facility in Fort Lyon that served veterans. Jason was a tremendous asset in this completely volunteer role who went above and beyond to serve."

The Congressional Leadership Fund did not respond to Denver7’s requests for its evidence supporting the ad’s claims. So, it’s unclear which “VA scandal,” the ad refers to – making veterans endure long wait-times for health care appointments or the cost-overruns and delayed completion of the new VA medical center in Aurora.

But, let’s be clear: Crow and the Colorado Board of Veterans Affairs had no role in any U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ scandal. The state board has no control over the federal agency.

The board is comprised of seven volunteer members, all honorably discharged military veterans. They visit communities across the state, identifying and working to resolve veterans’ challenges, ranging from mental health care to homelessness. The board also oversees the Veterans Trust Fund, which is used to improve veterans’ access to healthcare, stable housing and support services. 

The ad’s accusation that Crow “fails the test” when it comes to fighting for veterans ignores his years of advocacy for vets and their families.

The Denver Bar Association in 2010 named Crow “Volunteer Lawyer of the Year” for his legal advocacy and volunteer work for veterans and their families. This included serving as chairman of the Fitzsimons Veterans Hospital Oversight Committee when he worked with members of Colorado’s congressional delegation to obtain funding for construction of the VA medical center.

The United Veterans Committee of Colorado gave Crow its Outstanding Service Award in 2011 for his “dedication and committed service to Colorado veterans and their families” and his “untiring efforts” to get the VA medical center completed.

Crow also donated thousands of hours in legal work to help veterans with issues like substance abuse. He received the “The Catalyst for Change” Award in 2012 for his contributions to Phoenix Multisport, which helps addicts and their families – including many veterans – recover through physical activity.

"Jason's pro bono legal work for Phoenix Multisport has been an incredible gift, allowing Phoenix to grow its programs to reach thousands more Americans nationally who are healing from addiction,” the group’s founder, Scott Strode, said in a statement. “His military service has also helped him advise us on how Phoenix can better engage veterans struggling with substance use disorder to begin the road to recovery."

In another ad claim, the narrator says, “As a trial lawyer, Crow represented a corporate executive who stole millions from a veterans’ hospital.”

This claim centers on Jonathan Saunders, the co-owner of an architectural and engineering firm, who was indicted in March 2013 by a federal grand jury in Texas for seeking to defraud the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs out of $2 million, according to court records.

At the time, Crow was a junior attorney working in the Denver office of Holland & Hart, a national law firm.

The day Saunders’ indictment was filed, Crow was named his attorney in records for the U.S. District Court for Western Texas in San Antonio. The next day, a court clerk noted in a letter to Crow that he was not licensed to practice law in Texas.

Twelve days later, an attorney for a local law firm made an appearance as the defendant’s new attorney, court records show. That attorney began filing court papers on Saunders’ behalf. Crow was officially removed as Saunders’ attorney 28 days after he first appeared at his attorney in court records – and nearly two years before Saunders was sentenced to one year in prison and ordered to pay $1.5 million in restitution after pleading guilty to fraud, court records state.

A federal court clerk confirmed to Denver7 that Crow was briefly named Saunders attorney, but he was never licensed to work in Texas and never performed any court actions on behalf of the defendant.

The ad ends with the retired Marine saying, “Jason Crow neglected Colorado veterans; he doesn’t get my vote.”

Our findings  

The Congressional Leadership Fund ad’s narrator says, “While veterans suffered from the VA scandal, Crow didn’t show up for work.”

Let’s break this down. Crow did miss more than one-third of the meetings during his nearly five years on the board. However, all but three absences were excused.

We rate that part of the claim Fact.

But the ad falsely implies that Crow’s volunteer membership on a state board means he had some role in or responsibility for a scandal at the federal Department of Veterans Affairs. That’s just not true.

We rate this claim Fiction.

The ad’s narrator also says, “Veterans need a congressman who will fight for us. Jason Crow fails the test.”

This claim ignores Crow’s years of award-winning advocacy work for veterans and their families.

We rate this claim Fiction.

The ad’s narrator says, “As a trial lawyer, Crow represented a corporate executive who stole millions from a veterans’ hospital.”

As an attorney for a Denver law firm, Crow was – for less than a month – the named attorney for a company co-owner who nearly two years later pleaded guilty to defrauding the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in Texas. Another law firm’s attorney took over the defendant’s case 12 days after Crow was named attorney. According to a federal court clerk and records, Crow was never licensed to practice law in Texas and never performed any court actions on behalf of the defendant.

The ad sponsor takes a sliver of fact and grossly exaggerates it.

We rate this claim Misleading.

The ad ends with the narrator saying, “Jason Crow neglected Colorado veterans; he doesn’t get my vote.” Again, saying Crow “neglected” Colorado veterans is contradicted by his years of volunteer service, including providing free legal representation, for veterans and their families.

We rate this claim Fiction.

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