Federal panel dismisses claims questioning Joe Kent’s job

By Troy Brynelson (OPB)
Oct. 26, 2023 1 p.m. Updated: Oct. 26, 2023 2:24 p.m.

Regulators found “no reason to believe” allegations that the SW Washington candidate held a no-show job during the campaign.

Federal campaign finance regulators have dismissed a complaint against Southwest Washington’s Republican candidate for Congress last fall, concluding that claims he was paid to run for the seat lacked evidence.

Late in his campaign, Joe Kent was hit with questions about his day job at a Virginia-based technology company. Critics accused Kent of holding a no-show job that allowed him to undertake an involved bid for political office.


Federal campaign finance laws prohibit such arrangements.

FILE: Joe Kent, at his home in Yacolt, Wash., Sept. 29, 2021.

FILE: Joe Kent, at his home in Yacolt, Wash., Sept. 29, 2021.

Kristyna Wentz-Graff / OPB

However, the Federal Elections Commission recently found “no reason to believe” the allegations against the former Green Beret-turned-politician. In a statement, the Kent campaign celebrated and described the allegations as a smear tactic by his opponents and the media.

Campaign advisor Erin Van Natta said local and national media, as well then-Democratic candidate Marie Glusenkamp Perez, “ran with baseless lies about Joe Kent and his employer and now he has been fully vindicated.”

The investigation did find that Kent’s boss, Sean Reed, took at least a personal interest in the race. Reed confirmed to regulators he paid between $15,000 and $22,000 to the firm Trafalgar Polling to analyze the race, documents show.

Reed told regulators he used personal money, not company money, to commission the poll. Reed also denied that he coordinated with Kent’s campaign at all.

Federal campaign laws prohibit corporations from contributing to candidates. The 2022 election cycle also capped personal campaign contributions at $2,900.

According to the 15-page report, Reed told regulators he paid for the polls to “recommend races about which to conduct polls.” He added that he supported Kent — he was also a campaign donor — and that the poll would help him figure out if he was about to lose his staffer to a new political career.

“Reed denies coordinating the poll with Kent or (the campaign),” regulators wrote in the Sept. 6 report.

The allegations struck Kent in the run up to the November election. David Nierenberg, a wealthy businessman and sometimes Republican donor in the district who supported Gluesenkamp Perez, wrote the initial complaint.

The allegations largely stemmed from the candidate confusing the name of his workplace, which led to questions from the press. Kent’s former campaign manager also publicly casted doubt on the candidate’s job.


Prior to running for office, Kent spent two decades in the military. After he retired, he said he took a job as a CIA officer. But he left government work after his U.S. Navy cryptologist wife died in a suicide bombing in 2019.

Kent, who grew up in Oregon but had spent years living in Maryland, eventually relocated with his two sons to the town of Yacolt, Washington.

His bid for Congress was his first foray into politics. He joined the race in February 2021, after incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler voted to impeach former president Donald Trump for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection. He ultimately won Trump’s endorsement and became the conservative frontrunner.

Meanwhile, Kent’s day job was with a company that helped governments and private companies analyze telecom infrastructure. In public speeches and on dozens of federal filings, Kent had called his company “American Enterprise Solutions,” and said it was based in Virginia.

Two weeks before the election, online publication The Daily Beast wrote it was unable to find any record of Kent working for a company under that name.

Kent released his tax filings to the public shortly after. The filings showed a company called Advanced Enterprise Solutions employed Kent in 2021 and 2022, paying him more than $110,000 both years.

Kent and campaign consultant Matt Braynard took responsibility for the mislabeling. Braynard told OPB the typos on the forms were likely “transcription errors” on his part, and Kent said “there’s a good chance I screwed up” when he named the company incorrectly at public events.

Around the same time, Kent’s campaign manager from March to December 2021, Byron Sanford, began telling multiple outlets that he rarely saw Kent work — describing the candidate’s vocation as a “phantom job.”

Sanford, who was eventually fired, told OPB at the time he helped set Kent’s schedule and didn’t see him do anything besides run the campaign.

Advanced Enterprise Solutions eventually rebuked that claim. Regulators said the company explained that Kent’s work is a remote job that required international calls outside the typical 9-to-5 work hours.

The company also opened some of its books to regulators to show revenues, expenses and profits, as well as Kent’s engagement letter joining the company in 2019, the federal report said.

“Kent’s employment by AES significantly predating his candidacy, along with the other documents provided by AES establishing the nature of its business as well as Kent’s employment, undermine the basis of the allegation,” regulators wrote.

The company also called Sanford a “disgruntled and dismissed” former employee. Regulators said the “unsworn statements of a fired campaign employee” are not strong evidence of wrongdoing.

In dismissing the case, the FEC issued statements to Kent’s campaign, Advanced Enterprise Solutions, and Nierenberg. Nierenberg declined to comment Tuesday.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported when Joe Kent launched his congressional campaign. He entered the race in February 2021. A previous version also misstated his position with the CIA. OPB regrets the errors.