Top Recipient of “Small Business” Funds is Large, Trump-Connected Investment Firm

SK Ashby
Written by SK Ashby

Many businesses particularly in blue or liberal states have not been able to secure funds from the Small Business Administration under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and even those who have obtained funds did not necessarily receive large amounts.

If you want to receive large amounts -- or perhaps the largest amount -- you apparently have to be a large business, rather than a small business, and it also helps if you hire lobbyists who have a close relationship with the Trump regime.

The Daily Beast reports that the single largest recipient of funds, Ashford Inc, is not a small business and also does not even directly run or manage businesses. It's a real estate investment firm that obtained $58 million in funding through their Trump-adjacent lobbyists.

The Dallas-based Ashford does extensive business in the hotel industry through a pair of real estate investment trusts. Its chairman, Monty Bennett, penned an open letter on March 22 detailing just how devastating the virus had been for his company. [...]

Bennett himself is a huge Trump donor. He’s given over $200,000 to the Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee, and a joint fundraising committee supporting both of them since last year, according to Federal Election Commission records. He chipped in even more in support of Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Twelve days before Bennett wrote that open letter, Ashford had beefed up its political muscle even more. It hired its first-ever Washington lobbying firm, Miller Strategies. That firm is run by Jeff Miller, who was a finance vice-chair of President Trump’s 2017 inaugural committee. He has raised more than $2.8 million for the Trump campaign and the RNC so far this cycle, including $2.5 million in the first quarter of 2020 alone, according to FEC filings. Miller’s firm also employs Jonathan Hiller, the former director of legislative affairs for Vice President Mike Pence, and Ashley Gunn, Trump’s former director of cabinet affairs.

See, when say I feel like the Payment Protection Program (PPP) will ultimately prove to be a waste of money, this is what I'm talking about.

It's not that the program won't help at least some legitimate small businesses that genuinely need help; it's that most of those who obtain the largest amounts will do so through their political connections. The program has been poorly if not corruptly administered and that means not all of the money is going to those who actually need it. We also can't say how many paychecks this program is actually protecting because no one knows. It's basically a less-accountable (read: not accountable at all) version of regular unemployment insurance.

Perfection shouldn't be the enemy of the good, of course, but the money we're spending right now is basically our short-term future of the next eight to ten years disappearing in front of us.

The Treasury Department has issued new guidance that will supposedly stop things like this from happening again, but it may be too late. Those who had an opportunity to fleece the system have already done so at the expense of others and I don't necessarily believe it won't happen again. Lobbyists and looters are always a few steps ahead of Trump regime officials because, in some cases, the officials are past, present, or future lobbyists and looters.