INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — When Joseph “Trey” Hollingsworth III set his sights on political office in Indiana, opponents quickly criticized him as a multimillionaire carpetbagger from Tennessee using his family’s wealth to buy a reliably Republican seat in Congress.
Now an Associated Press review of public records shows that Hollingsworth’s company filed papers in five states that legally obligate the 33-year-old executive to live outside Indiana in order to represent his business interests.
As a “registered agent” for Hollingsworth Capital Partners, Hollingsworth is simultaneously required to live in Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia and Ohio so that legal papers, including any lawsuits that might be filed against the company, can be served. In at least two of those states, it is a misdemeanor crime to submit a false document.
Hollingsworth’s campaign insists the filings were simply a clerical mistake, which they vowed to fix after the AP raised the issue this week.
But Indiana University law school professor Antony Page says it “appears highly likely” that Hollingsworth committed a misdemeanor in North Carolina, where submitting a document known to be “false in any material respect” is punishable by a fine up to a $500.
Hollingsworth’s legal issues were “overall minor,” Page said, but the paperwork shows sloppiness and suggests “somebody is playing fast and loose” with the rules.
The campaign disputes that assessment and says the mistakes were made by an employee who is no longer with the company.
“The proper and necessary amendments have been drafted and sent to the respective states,” campaign spokesman, Rob Burgess said in a statement. Campaign representatives declined to answer an emailed list of questions from the AP.
Raised outside of Knoxville, Hollingsworth attended an Ivy League business school and soon joined his father’s company. At 15, he was featured in a 1999 Washington Post story about well-to-do teenagers attending a summer camp for young entrepreneurs. He refused to tell a reporter about his plans for an internet startup out of fear someone would steal his idea.
His father, Joseph Hollingsworth Jr., founded Hollingsworth Companies, where he made a fortune developing commercial and industrial properties across the South. In 1999, he wrote a book called the “Southern Advantage” extolling the economic virtues of the South, including its low level of unionization. In the 1990s, he flirted with a possible run for governor of Tennessee — as a Democrat.
Trey Hollingsworth graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business and was brought into his dad’s business in 2005, when he was named managing partner and majority owner of Hollingsworth Capital Partners, the company he now runs. The business is an outgrowth of his father’s company and focuses on developing industrial real estate. It is headquartered in his hometown of Clinton, Tennessee.
Since entering the race, Hollingsworth has been largely silent about most of his activities between 2005 and his arrival in Indiana in 2015. His congressional financial disclosure shows a net worth of at least $50 million and earnings of at least $1.4 million a year.
Hollingsworth married his wife, Kelly, in Charleston, South Carolina, holding a lavish ceremony at Lowndes Grove Plantation that was profiled by Charleston Style and Design magazine.
During an interview with the AP last month, Hollingsworth noted that he lived in South Carolina before moving to Indiana, but refused to say specifically where else he has lived.
“I’d have to go back and look,” he told the AP. “We lived in a variety of places. We lived in Louisville, Kentucky, at one time and a variety of places.”
Candidates for Congress must reside in the state they seek to represent, but there is no minimum requirement for the length of residency. His Democrat and Republican opponents have derisively called him “Tennessee Trey.”
Property records show Hollingsworth does not own the luxury Jeffersonville, Indiana, condo that is listed on his voter registration, but his campaign says he is shopping for a permanent home. Jeffersonville is a suburb of Louisville, Kentucky, and the condo is on banks of the Indiana side of the Ohio River.
During the Republican primary, Hollingsworth presented himself as a businessman and job creator in a district that stretches from the Ohio River to the Indianapolis suburbs and is expected to vote for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
Meanwhile, he buried his lesser-funded opponents, including Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller and two state senators, in a blitz of TV ads. He now faces Democrat Shelli Yoder, who has financial backing from national Democrats who hope to exploit Hollingsworth’s lack of ties to the state.
Hollingsworth has poured at least $2.8 million of his own money into the campaign, amounting to at least 90 percent of the money he has raised, according to Federal Election Commission records.
He also received a considerable boost from a group called Indiana Jobs Now Super PAC. His father — the group’s sole financier — contributed $1.1 million.
The super PAC runs ads portraying Hollingsworth as a “conservative outsider” while attacking his rivals as tax-happy “career politicians.” Such super PACs are prohibited from coordinating with candidates or their campaigns.
“I’m certainly happy that my dad is supportive,” Hollingsworth said. “And that’s it for that.”