“A fraud like George Santos”: New investigation blows major holes in MAGA Republican’s resume

Tenn. Rep. Andy Ogles dubiously claimed he was an economist, a police officer and a sex trafficking expert

Published February 17, 2023 1:48PM (EST)

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) (L) talks with Rep.-elect Andy Ogles (R-TN) in the House Chamber following a day of votes for the new Speaker of the House at the U.S. Capitol on January 04, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) (L) talks with Rep.-elect Andy Ogles (R-TN) in the House Chamber following a day of votes for the new Speaker of the House at the U.S. Capitol on January 04, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Freshman Rep. Andy Ogles, R-Tenn., drew comparisons to admitted fabricator Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., after a new investigation into his resume revealed he has exaggerated several aspects of his life, including being a trained police officer and an expert in international sex crimes. 

An investigation from local news outlet NewsChannel 5 revealed several holes in Ogles' personal life story after he claimed to be an economist during the House speaker vote last month. 

"Yeah, you know, I'm an economist," Ogles said in a C-SPAN interview. When he was asked later which committees he wanted to be assigned to, Ogles started by saying, "So, I'm an economist."

He then told the TV show Washington Watch later in January, once again, "I'm an economist. I worked in economics. I worked in health care."

Ogles's claims of economic expertise began during his campaign for Congress. During a Wilson County GOP debate, he began one of his answers by saying, "You know, as an economist..." He then used the exact same phrase in his first meeting on the House Financial Services Committee.

However, there is little evidence that Ogles ever received formal training in economics. His congressional bio states that he has a degree from Middle Tennessee State University, "where he studied policy and economics," but the university refused to confirm whether this was true. They cited a portion of a federal law that allows students to block the release of their educational credentials. 

"I would think that if he has a block that there must be something wrong," state Sen. Heidi Campbell, D-Tenn., who lost the House race to Ogles, told NewsChannel 5.

However, Ogles' website in 2002 claimed that the congressman "studied foreign policy and the constitution" at Western Kentucky University and Middle Tennessee State. The outlet found no mention of economics on the site. 

When they checked with Western Kentucky, they confirmed that he attended from 1990 to 1993, but that he actually majored in English and Allied Language Arts.

When asked about the discrepancy, Ogles shared an image with NewsChannel 5 of a diploma for a bachelor of science degree from Middle Tennessee State in 2007, when he was 36.

However, a résumé from 2009, two years after the congressman graduated from MTSU, stated his degree was in international relations, with minors in psychology and English.

"I mean, that looks to me like somebody who doesn't have any background in economics," Campbell told the outlet. 

When Campbell was asked what this says about his claims, she said she wasn't surprised.

"If you really dig into him and what he's done, you're probably going to find there's a lot more where this came from," she said.

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Ogles frequently mentions his connection to economist Arthur Laffer and his LinkedIn résumé shows that he was once the "executive director" for the Laffer Center. However, the job appears to be an administrative position, not an economic role. He also has no economic reports to his name.

"While working at the Laffer Center, Andy became a nationally recognized expert on tax policy and healthcare, having been featured in numerous publications, including The Wall Street Journal and Investor's Business Daily," his website reads. But when looking into these features, the outlet found that he only wrote three columns — two co-authored with another person — when he was a lobbyist for the conservative group Americans for Prosperity. He was never independently cited as an expert for anything. 

"It might be a bit more credible if a news organization had called him and quoted him on the basis that he was a national expert," MTSU political science professor John Vile told NewsChannel 5.

The exaggerations don't stop there — Ogles also claims to be a trained police officer with expertise in international sex crimes. 

When trying to assert his credibility in a GOP debate, the then-candidate said, "as a former member of law enforcement, worked in international sex crimes, specifically child trafficking...."

He also claimed to have a midlife crisis in which he "went into law enforcement."

"I worked in human trafficking," he stated.

Before taking office in Congress, Ogles told C-SPAN that he has knowledge of human trafficking over the Southern border, claiming to have "first-hand experience of someone who worked in that space. I turned gray because of it."

Last month, he once again told C-SPAN, "You know, part of my career, I worked in human trafficking."

When NewsChannel 5 looked into the claims, they found that the congressman was sworn in as a volunteer reserve deputy with the Williamson County Sheriff's Office in July 2009, but that he lost the position after just two years because he could not meet the minimum standards. He made no progress in field training and failed to attend the required meetings. 

"There is nothing in Mr. Ogles training or personnel file that indicates he had any involvement in 'international sex trafficking' in his capacity as a reserve deputy," Williamson County sheriff's spokesperson Sharon Puckett told NewsChannel 5.

Then there are Ogles' claims that he is a human trafficking expert. 

He worked for the non-profit Abolition International in 2011, and his website claims that he was responsible for "overseeing operations and investments in 12 countries," during his role as chief operating officer.

"I began working, volunteering my time," Ogles told Washington Watch. "Then I ended up becoming chief operating officer. It was just one of those I didn't really intend to set out to be so heavily involved in the fight against human trafficking. It just kinda occurred."

However, people within the group privately disputed Ogles' characterization of his role. Tax returns from the group show that he only held a part-time position with a final paycheck of $4,000.

"Wow, that does not sound to me like somebody who was the COO," Campbell told NewsChannel 5.

The outlet also found an archived version of the nonprofit's website that shows they made grants to "holistic ministries" in a few countries, not 12, that they never stopped international sex rings nor did they rescue human trafficking victims.

When Campbell was asked if this information would have impacted voters' decisions, she told the outlet that she believes "it might have."

Ogles avoided the media during his campaign and he is still dodging questions about his past. The outlet did not receive any comment from his press secretary, nor Laffer, who has previously criticized others for lying about having degrees in economics. 

"My election is over, and I've moved on with that — that's fine," Campbell told the outlet. "But I do think going forward people need to know who they are electing."

Former Rep. Mondaire Jones, D-N.Y., tweeted that it looks like "George Santos may not be the only member of the House GOP who lied, and continues to lie, extensively about his academic and professional experiences." 

"Ogles - Tennessee's very own George Santos," wrote state Rep. John Ray Clemmons, D-Tenn., "Because our other GOP folks in DC weren't questionable enough. Several of Santos' GOP colleagues in NY have called for his resignation. Let's see if Ogles' TN GOP colleagues follow suit."

Former New York Times labor reporter Steven Greenhouse added, "Republican Congressman Andy Ogles of Tennessee is a fraud like George Santos (but not quite as bad)."

By Samaa Khullar

Samaa Khullar is a former news fellow at Salon with a background in Middle Eastern history and politics. She is a graduate of New York University's Arthur L. Carter Journalism institute and is pursuing investigative reporting.

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