While President Biden’s CARES Act has in many ways proven to be a lifeline for thousands of businesses struggling to stay afloat amid the COVID-19 crisis, the PPP loan program, coordinated by the Small Business Administration (SBA), has also been the subject of great controversy. , with many critics claiming its provisions have been abused by massive companies that hardly needed an extra boost.
In December, the New York Times reported that only 1% of businesses that have received federal COVID-19 relief have garnered more than a quarter of the total amount of loans disbursed. “The money,” the Times wrote, “has been unevenly shared, with the largest sums going to a section of businesses in need.” About 600 large companies received loans of up to $ 10 million. Even state-owned companies with huge cash reserves – like Ruth’s Chris, Shake Shack and AutoNation – have taken out PPP loans, casting doubt on the program’s ability to distribute aid fairly.
The program, however, suffered the worst reputation blow even months before this report, when it was revealed that dozens of lawmakers (and their families) received millions in loans for their own personal businesses, even when these same lawmakers may have had a hand. in writing the provisions of the program. To boot, some of these lawmakers opposed legislation that would have added to the transparency of the program, potentially allowing them to receive undue federal aid behind the curtain.
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From a mud report, at least 28 members of Congress (or their spouses) have benefited from some $ 27 million in small business loans. Some of these members include Reps Dean Phillips, D-Minn., Kevin Hern, R-Okla., Greg Pence, R-Ind., And Carol Miller, RW.Va.
One of these legislators, Representative Mike Kelly, R-Pa., Has received federal loans ranging from $ 150,000 to $ 350,000 for his various auto dealers, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. Kelly, who vote “No” on the TRUTH Act – which would have required the SBA to disclose all PPP beneficiaries in addition to the amount of their loans – is linked to four companies that benefited from the program, including Mike Kelly Automotive Group Inc., Mike Kelly Automotive LP, Mike Kelly Hyundai Inc. and Kelly Chevrolet Cadillac.
A spokesperson for his office told the Inquirer that Kelly “is not involved in the day-to-day operations of his car dealerships and was not part of the discussions between the company and the PPP lender.” However, the Post Office Gazette find last July he was still named president of Mike Kelly Hyundai, Mike Kelly Automotive and Kelly Chevrolet Cadillac on one of his recent House financial disclosures, with his wife reporting a Kelly Chevrolet Cadillac salary.
Kelly is the 39th richest member of Congress, according to a 2018 analysis by the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics, with a net worth of $ 12.4 million.
Other lawmakers who have benefited from the PPP program include Representatives Roger Williams, R-Tex., And Vern Buchanan, R-Fla.
According to Sludge, Williams, who claims a net worth of $ 27.7 million, cashed more than $ 1.4 million for his JRW Corporation, worth $ 50 million in 2019. The Tory lawmaker also has garnered federal aid for its Roger Williams Chrysler Dodge Jeep dealership in North Texas. .
“I have not personally benefited from [the loan]”he told Fox Business Network last year.” I have hundreds of employees – they took advantage. “
Earlier that year, in March 2020, Williams painted a very different picture of government grants, story The Epoch Times that “a socialist wants you to get a check from the government … a capitalist wants you to get a check from where you work”.
Williams, who voted against the TRUTH Act, also came under scrutiny by the House Ethics Committee in 2016, when he hidden an ostensibly self-interested provision in President Obama’s Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act. The article, which he himself authored, effectively guaranteed that his own dealerships would be able to circumvent a federal car rental ban under safety recalls.
Representative Buchanan, the third richest member of Congress in 2018, behaved similarly with his various car dealerships. Bradenton’s Herald reported that the Florida lawmaker, worth about $ 74 million, accepted loans totaling between $ 2.7 million and $ 7 million for three of his personal businesses. The biggest went to Sarasota Ford, its Sarasota-based car dealership in which it is said to have a $ 50 million stake.
Like Kelly, Buchanan downplayed the importance of federal aid, arguing that he does not handle the concessions himself. But many advocates of government accountability have speculated that Buchanan’s decision was an abuse of power.
While small businesses in Sarasota and Bradenton struggled to secure federal aid, Buchanan cut his line and secured a loan in the early days of the program – after the Trump administration exempted members of Congress from go through a normally mandatory ethics review before obtaining a loan ”, Sarah Guggenheimer, DCCC regional press officer, wrote.
Buchanan did not vote on the TRUTH. Its past campaign finance practices have been marred by accusations of corruption, as well as subsequent investigations by the Department of Justice, FBI, FEC and the House Ethics Committee.
During the administration of the program, which ended in May, there were no rules preventing federal lawmakers (or their families) from applying for a P3 loan, and no one explicitly claimed that those lawmakers broke the laws.
However, “it certainly looks bad and it smells bad,” Aaron Scherb, spokesperson for Common Cause, Recount Fortune, suggesting that their participation in the program poses a significant conflict of interest. According to a Politico report since last year, Congress has not imposed any specific disclosure rules regarding PPP loans for its own members.
“There are probably several other cases of family and friends of public servants receiving bailout funds,” Craig Holman, lobbyist for Public Citizen’s Capitol Hill, echoed Roll Call. “However, the general lack of disclosure of most beneficiaries of PPP funds prevents the public from knowing all the legislators who have benefited from their legislative actions.”