Data: Congress created and reaped antivirus help

WASHINGTON (AP) – At least a dozen lawmakers have ties to organizations that have received federal aid against coronaviruses, according to recently released government data, highlighting how Washington insiders were both author and beneficiary of the one of the largest government programs in the history of the United States.

Under pressure from Congress and outside groups, the Trump administration this week released the names of some of the $ 659 billion paycheck protection program launched in April to help small businesses. to keep Americans employed during the pandemic. Links with legislators and organizations working to influence them quickly emerged.

Among the businesses that received the money was a California hotel partially owned by the President of the House, Nancy Pelosi’s husband, as well as a shipping company launched by the family of Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao. Chao is married to the majority leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell.

Car dealerships owned by Republican representatives Roger Williams from Texas and Mike Kelly from Pennsylvania and fast food franchises owned by Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Okla., Received cash. The same was true for a law firm belonging to the husband of Senator Jeanne Shaheen, DN.H., and the former law firm of representative Matt Cartwright, D-Pa., Who employs his wife.

The money was also donated to a farm and equipment business owned by representative Vicky Hartzler’s family, R-Mo., And a regional casino company run by representative’s husband Susie Lee, D-Nev .

Members of Congress and their families are not prevented from receiving P3 loans, and there is no evidence that they received special treatment. The loans were made to Democrats and Republicans, which President Donald Trump’s campaign quickly highlighted when records showed that the donors to his campaign coffers were among the first beneficiaries.

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Hundreds of millions of dollars have also been paid to political consultants, opposition research bureaus, law firms, advocacy organizations and professional associations whose job it is to influence the government and politics.

Although voting, lobbying and ultimately benefiting from the legislation are not illegal, proponents say the blurred lines risk eroding public confidence in the federal response to the pandemic as Congress begins debating a new coronavirus rescue series.

“It certainly looks bad and smells bad,” said Aaron Scherb, spokesperson for Common Cause, a monitoring group that has also been approved for a loan under the program. “We think it should certainly be illegal” for members of Congress to benefit from a program they have created, he said.

As of June 30, the Treasury Department’s program had distributed $ 521 billion to industries such as manufacturing, construction, restaurants and hotels.

The Treasury only identified a fraction of the total borrowers on Monday, naming only the companies that obtained more than $ 150,000. These businesses represented less than 15% of the nearly 5 million small businesses and organizations that received assistance.

Many lawmakers related to the granting of loans have pointed out that they were not part of the application process.

A Pelosi spokesperson said that her husband Paul was a minority investor in the company that owns the El Dorado hotel in the wine-growing town of Sonoma, California. Paul Pelosi has an 8.1% stake in the company, valued at $ 250,000 to $ 500,000, said the Pelosi office.

“Sir. Pelosi is a minor and passive investor in this company,” said spokesman for Democratic President Drew Hammill. “He was not involved in this PPP loan or even aware of it.” The company, EDI Associates, is listed as the beneficiary of a loan between $ 350,000 and $ 1 million.

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New York-based Foremost Maritime Co., founded by Chao’s parents and led by his sister, has been authorized to obtain a loan valued between $ 350,000 and $ 1 million. McConnell, a Republican seeking re-election in Kentucky, said Tuesday: “Neither my wife nor I have anything to do with this business and I knew nothing about it.”

The Shaheen and Gordon law firm in Dover, N, H., obtained a loan of $ 1 to 2 million. The business is owned by Jeanne Shaheen’s husband, William Shaheen. A securities company partially owned by William Shaheen has obtained a loan of $ 160,000 and half a dozen businesses he partially owns or another relative has loans of less than $ 150,000.

Jeanne Shaheen said that she “was not involved in any way in requesting these loans and I have nothing to do with their businesses, and Congress played no role in processing PPP requests . “

Auto dealerships owned by Kelly received $ 450,000 to just over $ 1 million. Mike Kelly Automotive Group, Mike Kelly Automotive LP and Mike Kelly Hyundai and Kelly Chevrolet-Cadillac, all near Pittsburgh, received the money,

A spokesperson for Kelly said that he was not part of the loan application and that he was not involved in dealership operations, according to ethical standards.

Williams, one of the wealthiest lawmakers with a net worth of more than $ 27 million in 2018, received a loan for his dealer Roger Williams Chrysler Dodge Jeep in Weatherford, Texas. Williams is President and CEO of JRW Corp. Fort Worth, which receives a loan of $ 1-2 million. A Williams spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

At least five car dealerships belonging to representative Carol Miller’s husband, RW.Va., have also received loans, each ranging from $ 350,000 to $ 1 million, according to the data.

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Other legislators, while moving away from the loan process, have sought to portray the PPP program as a success.

KTAK Corp. Hern to Tulsa, a management company for several McDonald’s restaurants, received between $ 1 and $ 2 million. Hern is not involved in day-to-day operations, but “he is happy to share that the family business was able to keep all employees either at their current job level or move part-time full-time employees”, said chief of staff Cameron Foster.

Full House Resorts, a Las Vegas-based casino company run by Lee’s husband Daniel, has obtained two loans totaling $ 5.6 million, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company said the funds would be used to re-hire several hundred employees and prepare to reopen two casinos in Indiana and Colorado.

Lee’s office said she had no knowledge of the loans and had no influence on the demand.

Source: AP News

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