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Small Business Rescue Money Flowing To Major Trump Donors, Disclosures Show

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From The Intercept

Some Qualifying Businesses Received A PPP Loan While Others Were Shut Out
Some Qualifying Businesses Received A PPP Loan While Others Were Shut Out
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MAJOR DONORS to President Donald Trump's presidential reelection campaign have won coveted loans from the Paycheck Protection Program, the new government effort to provide a lifeline to small businesses under duress because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The loans, which are converted to grants if payroll is maintained and other, sometimes unclear, conditions are met, have been out of reach for tens of thousands of small business owners, many of whom have faced delays and denials. But PPP loans have been swiftly approved for a number of corporations whose executives have donated heavily to Trump's campaign, Securities and Exchange Commission records show.

The largest known recipient of small business rescue money has been a set of luxury hotels run by Archie Bennett and his son Monty Bennett. The pair have obtained over $59 million in PPP funds for Ashford Hospitality Trust and Braemar Hotels & Resorts, holding companies used to own and manage a range of hotels, including the Ritz-Carlton in St. Thomas. The companies were eligible for PPP loans because the program was intentionally designed to benefit large franchise owners of restaurants and hotels operators, as long as each location employs 500 people or less.

The father and son are also megadonors who have given nearly half a million dollars to Trump since 2016 and over $1.3 million to GOP politicians and groups in recent years. The company, disclosures show, also sought professional influence.

Just days after the passage of the CARES Act, the sweeping bailout law that enabled the PPP program, the Ashford Hospitality Trust signed a lobbying contract with Jeffrey Miller, a lobbyist and fundraiser who has raised $1,494,000 for Trump's 2020 reelection. Miller went to work attempting to influence the Small Business Administration and Congress on behalf of his client, records show, to obtain a share of the bailout money.

They weren't the only ones with a financial inside track to the Trump administration.

Continental Materials Corp., a construction equipment product company, received $5.4 million in PPP loans. The firm is owned by the family of Ronald Gidwitz, who has donated $50,000 to Trump and over $109,000 to the Republican National Committee in recent years.

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