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TJ Cox’s PAC Spent $35,000 on Criminal Defense Attorneys



TJ Cox's political action committee spent thousands on lawyers and local candidates. (GV Wire Illustration/Paul Marshall)
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A community justice group and a law firm were the biggest recipients of funds from a political action committee founded by former congressman TJ Cox.

Last week, Cox, D-Fresno, was indicted on 28 counts of fraud — including one count of campaign finance fraud. He pleaded not guilty.

After his 2020 House campaign, in which he lost his reelection bid to Hanford Republican David Valadao, Cox transferred the funds to the Rising Electorate PAC (affiliated with a committee known as Voter PAC in federal paperwork).

Through Voter PAC, MJTJ, LLC — a company associated with Cox — was paid nearly $34,000 for “fundraising consulting.”

$25,000 Spent on Local Law Firm

Federal Election Commission data shows Rising Electorate spent $25,000 on the Law Offices of Nuttall and Coleman. Attorney Mark Coleman took over the case last week from former partner Roger Nuttall (the split happened in May).

Both are prominent Fresno criminal defense attorneys.

The payments to the law office were listed for Dec. 14, 2021, and Feb. 18, 2022.

Nuttall was not available for comment.

The PAC also spent money on other law firms. Nolan Barton & Olmos, LLP is a Palo Alto-based “law firm devoted exclusively to representing individuals and corporations accused of crimes” it says on its website. It received more than $10,000.

At least three other firms paid with Cox’s campaign contributions practice government and political law.

Nonprofit Leader: Disappointed in Cox

“If he wants that money back because he wants to hire lawyers to bail him out of jail, that’s totally bull****.”Pedro Ramirez, Central Valley Workers Center

The PAC’s biggest single contribution — $39,000 — went to the nonprofit Central Valley Workers Center. Its president, Pedro Ramirez, says they focus on community and youth engagement. The money was used to help register voters.

The group also received $10,000 through Voter PAC.

“I’m very disappointed in TJ. We did a lot to help him when I worked for the Labor Council, we helped in 2018. So we’re very disappointed that our work went for naught,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez, a former student body president at Fresno State, says his group has about $10,000-$15,000 remaining. He does not plan on returning it, instead spending “to help the community.”

“I don’t feel comfortable giving that money to that PAC, knowing what TJ has done,” Ramirez said. “The worst thing I could do is give that money and he’s going to use that money for other shady things or to cover his legal fees. I’m one of the people that believe he needs to be held accountable.”

“If he wants that money back because he wants to hire lawyers to bail him out of jail, that’s totally bull****,” Ramirez said.

Thousands Contributed to Local Candidates

Rising Electorate contributed to at least 10 congressional candidates nationwide — including Adam Gray, D-Merced, and Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield — who are running in Central Valley districts.

The Salas campaign tells GV Wire it has refunded the money.

“TJ Cox has disgraced himself,” the campaign said.

It’s a flashpoint in Salas’ attempt to unseat Valadao in the 22nd Congressional District.

“T.J Cox’s criminal behavior was reported on for years and Rudy Salas still accepted his endorsement, support, and money,” National Republican Congressional Committee spokeswoman Torunn Sinclair said in a news release.

Gray’s campaign told The Sun it has donated its $1,000 received from the PAC to the Yes on Proposition 1 campaign — advocating for the passage of a constitutional right to an abortion that will be on the November ballot.

Soria, Esparza, Arias Receive Funds

Three Fresno city councilmembers received contributions from Rising Electorate or Voter PAC.

Esmeralda Soria, who is running for state Assembly, received $4,900 on Feb. 18, 2022, from the Rising Electorate account, according to FEC data. She also received $4,900 from the Voter PAC. Both have separate transaction ID numbers.

In Soria’s state financial reporting, only the Voter PAC contribution is listed. After this story published, the Soria campaign says they returned the check in April.

“We have no record of receiving or depositing a check from Rising Electorate,” campaign spokesman Josh Pulliam said.

Councilman Miguel Arias received $2,000 and Nelson Esparza received $3,500. Both Arias and Esparza were successful in their respective re-election bids in June.

“Both (councilmembers) Mike (Karbassi) and Garry(Bredefeld) used taxpayer money to pay criminals and Danny Gai contributed to Garry but you are asking me about donations from a guy that hasn’t had his day in court,” Arias texted GV Wire in response.

Arias was referring to Karbassi hiring Brian Calhoun as a consultant in 2019. Calhoun previously was convicted of assaulting a student when he taught at Fresno City College. Bredefeld’s staffer Gai, pled no contest last year to domestic violence charges. He resigned as a result.

Gilbert Felix, a candidate running for State Center Community College board, received $1,500.

Neither Esparza’s campaign nor Felix responded for this story.

TJ Cox (left) and Miguel Arias pose together at a 2019 fundraiser. (GV Wire file)

Curiosity drives David Taub. The award-winning journalist might be shy, but feels mighty with a recorder in his hand. He doesn't see it his job to "hold public officials accountable," but does see it to provide readers (and voters) the information needed to make intelligent choices. Taub has been honored with several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. He's just happy to have his stories read. Joining GV Wire in 2016, Taub covers politics, government and elections, mainly in the Fresno/Clovis area. He also writes columns about local eateries (Appetite for Fresno), pro wrestling (Off the Bottom Rope), and media (Media Man). Prior to joining the online news source, Taub worked as a radio producer for KMJ and PowerTalk 96.7 in Fresno. He also worked as an assignment editor for KCOY-TV in Santa Maria, California, and KSEE-TV in Fresno. He has also worked behind the scenes for several sports broadcasts, including the NCAA basketball tournament, and the Super Bowl. When not spending time with his family, Taub loves to officially score Fresno Grizzlies games. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Taub is a die-hard Giants and 49ers fan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. Go Blue! You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email