WASHINGTON, D.C. – An analysis from government watchdog Accountable.US — previewed in Daily Kos — found that at least 75 conservative organizations, including several that have vocally advocated against pandemic aid, took nearly $20 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) resources meant for struggling mom-and-pop businesses. At least 14 of these right-wing groups took money under a second government aid fund, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program. Several of the groups are supporters of President Trump, which may help explain why the administration fought tooth and nail in the courts to try to keep loans like this from public view. Of the 75 organizations identified, the identities of roughly half were only revealed in the SBA’s December PPP data drop four months after the program ended, following a lengthy legal battle.
“It’s fascinating to see people who’ve made careers out of bashing what they call ‘big government’ being among the first in line for a taxpayer handout during a crisis,” said Jeremy Funk, spokesman for Accountable.US. “These groups wave their finger at federal relief spending for local governments and working families, but don’t seem to mind when it benefits them. But this goes way beyond hypocrisy. These groups join the long list of rich and well-connected supporters of Donald Trump who were allowed to take millions from a program intended for struggling small businesses and employees. It’s an insult to all the mom-and-pops in communities of color that were shut out from the program due to the Trump administration’s poor design and mismanagement.”
Among those who enjoyed taxpayer support:
- Center for Urban Renewal and Education, Council for National Policy, and Leadership Institute Inc, each “double-dipped” — receiving both PPP and EIDL assistance — and were part of a group of eight conservative organizations that took aid totaling $2,281,075 despite signing a May 2020 letter led by the Conservative Action Project in opposition to federal aid to state and local governments amid the COVID-19 crisis.
- American Majority and its action arm took $130,400 combined despite organizing the “largest single-day conservative grassroots training initiative in history” in September 2011. American Majority hosted training sessions across the country to “educate and mobilize fiscally conservative activists and future candidates to fight for limited government and free market principles.”
- The Remembrance Project took $75,000 under EIDL and $15,600 under PPP. The nonprofit, which highlights victims of crimes committed by undocumented people, has close ties to President Trump. According to the New York Times, “It caught the Trump wave early, bringing several families to the Beverly Hills meeting and other campaign events and hosting a fund-raiser for Mr. Trump in Houston.”
- American Family Association took $1.39 million despite declaring that the Bible says God “has made us the stewards of the resources He has provided.” An “economic system must allow for individuals to have rights to use those resources without excessive impediment of government.”
- American Center for Law and Justice, Inc took $1.23 million despite vast financial ties to Trump and the GOP. According to the Associated Press, a half-dozen ACLJ lawyers were named as part of Trump’s defense team. The Republican National Committee also “paid more than $250,000” to the group’s founder’s for-profit CLA Group since 2017, “when he was first named to Trump’s legal team as special counsel Robert Mueller was leading the Russia investigation.”
- Liberty Counsel took $428,100 under PPP and $10,000 under EIDL despite decrying the very legislation it would eventually take money under. In March 2020, Liberty Counsel wrote of the CARES Act, “Even today, the $2 trillion-dollar spending bill is still being written as members of Congress are being pressured to pass it.”
Accountable.US has been tracking the administration’s failure to get aid to those who need it most on its website, www.COVIDBailoutTracker.com, where the new SBA PPP data as well as all previously publicly released PPP data and additional CARES Act program spending is posted in a searchable format.
While the PPP was intended to serve as a lifeline for businesses struggling to hang on through the ongoing economic crisis, the Trump administration’s flawed design and implementation of the program quickly led to the rich and powerful, big corporations, fraudsters running away with taxpayer support as many truly struggling small businesses — especially in communities of color — were shut out from the program and allowed to go under. Previous analyses from Accountable.US found that billions of dollars in PPP money instead went to hate groups, anti-LGBTQ religious school tied to Karen Pence, over 130,000 well-off individuals with no employees, Trump-related campaign vendors, rich celebrities, and oil, gas, and miningcompanies. That is why any new small business aid from Congress should include safeguards ensuring it’s transparent, efficient, accountable and targeted to those in greatest need — not the rich, powerful and friends of the president.