Four Members Of Congress Cashed In On $670B Loan Program They Helped Create
According to Politico, at least four members of Congress cashed in on benefits from the half-trillion-dollar small business loan program they helped create amid the coronavirus pandemic — and there is no way to know how many more congressmen have done the same.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers “have acknowledged close ties to companies that have received loans from the [Paycheck Protection Program] — businesses that are either run by their families or employ their spouse as a senior executive.”
The Republicans include “Rep. Roger Williams of Texas, a wealthy businessman who owns auto dealerships, body shops and car washes, and Rep. Vicky Hartzler of Missouri, whose family owns multiple farms and equipment suppliers across the Midwest.”
The Democrats include “Rep. Susie Lee of Nevada, whose husband is CEO of a regional casino developer, and Rep. Debbie Mucarsel Powell of Florida, whose husband is a senior executive at a restaurant chain that has since returned the loan.”
Aides and lawmakers indicated that these are not the only individuals to take advantage of the loan program, but “Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has so far refused to disclose the recipients of those loans.”
Politico noted that it is not illegal for lawmakers to partake of the small business bailout but “it has raised new questions about lawmakers’ potential conflicts of interest as they craft the next coronavirus rescue package as well as the administration’s fierce secrecy of the $670 billion program.”
The PPP previously faced scrutiny over allegations that wealthy corporations were first in line while small businesses were left wanting.
The program also faces transparency complaints, as the Treasury Department and Small Business Administration refuse to disclose recipients.
Mnuchin reportedly suggested this week that he intends to discuss the matter with lawmakers, after Democrats sent a letter demanding to see a list of borrowers.
Democrats have tried to pry free the list of recipients. But their push in the House to require disclosure of at least some companies was blocked on the floor late last month by Republicans — including Williams and Hartzler, who voted against the bill. Lee and Powell joined all Democrats in supporting it. All four lawmakers have previously voted in favor of the small-business program.
“This is the largest distributor of taxpayer money in human history, and we need to ensure taxpayers know where it’s going,” the author of that bill, Rep. Dean Phillips, said in an interview. The Minnesota Democrat added that his bill “was not written to expose members of Congress, because frankly I expected members of Congress to be forthright and transparent to begin with.”
Politico noted that a significant portion of scrutiny over lawmakers taking PPP loans “has centered on Williams, one of the wealthiest members of Congress with a net worth of over $27 million in 2018.”
“If you’re a multimillionaire taking taxpayer money in the middle of the biggest unemployment since the Great Depression, get ready to explain that decision to the American people,” said Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) as she introduced new transparency legislation last month and called out Williams by name in a news release.