A new report from The Daily Beast digs into how Senator Susan Collins changed the Paycheck Protection Program to benefit the corporate special interests backing her campaign.
The initial draft of the PPP allowed businesses to receive PPP loans if they had fewer than 500 employees, but Collins pushed for a revision that allowed businesses with fewer than 500 employees “per physical location” to be defined as small businesses, opening the door for big hotel and restaurant chains to take advantage of the program.
In the first quarter of this year the American Hotel and Lodging Association PAC, the Hilton Worldwide PAC, and the International Franchise Association gave Collins $13,000 in campaign donations. Their investment paid off big time when Collins tweaked her signature program in the coronavirus aid package to allow those same donors access to hundreds of billions of dollars that were supposed to go to struggling small businesses.
While many small businesses in Maine and across the country have reported that the PPP has been too slow and too rigid to help them save their business, more than $1 billion dollars has flowed to large publicly traded companies through the program.
“Susan Collins went out of her way to turn a program to support small businesses into a cash cow for big corporations,” said Maine Democratic Party Chair Kathleen Marra. “It’s clear that even when Maine small businesses are struggling, Collins will put the corporate special interests backing her campaign first.”
The Daily Beast: How Susan Collins’ PPP Bill Helped Bail Out Big Businesses
By Eleanor Clift
May 14, 2020
Senator Susan Collins is fighting for her political life with a new television ad that says “in a time of crisis, real leaders step forward. Others disappear.”
The ad touts that the Maine Republican co-wrote the Paycheck Protection Program that’s provided $2.5 billion in forgivable loans to more than 26,000 small businesses in the state. It doesn’t mention that she also allowed special interests and big donors to access the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP. All it took was three little words.
Collins acknowledged in a radio interview on Maine broadcaster Mike Violette’s radio show Wednesday morning that she was one of the senators who’d worked to include an exception in the bill that allowed big hotel and restaurant chains to receive PPP money as long as they had fewer than 500 employees “per physical location.”
Noting that the initial draft of the PPP did not have that “carve-in” for chains, Common Cause’s Beth Rotman, an expert in money and politics, told the Daily Beast, “Essentially a combination of wealthy special interests together with well-placed contributors at a critical moment bought a revision to our stimulus package that defined small business as including big business because they owned large franchises made up of hundreds of smaller entities. They were following the law they helped write.”
An examination of contributions to Collins for Senator, and to her leadership PAC, during the first quarter of 2020 reveals $13,000 in contributions in mid-to-late February from the American Hotel and Lodging Association PAC, the Hilton Worldwide PAC, and the International Franchise Association.
At the end of April, the CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association co-wrote an op-ed for the Bangor Daily News with the CEO of Hospitality Maine, declaring that “Maine hoteliers, and the industry at large, are lucky to have Collins advocating on our behalf” and stopping just short of endorsing her re-election bid as Maine’s tourist industry struggles to adapt to COVID-19.
Collins’ office did not respond to a request for comment for this story.
By releasing an ad crediting herself as the creator of the PPP, Collins is betting that voters in Maine will remember the good things about it: that the government acted quickly and was able to set aside partisan feelings to get money to people that needed it.
She’s hoping voters won’t blame her for the fact that so many of the loans went to big businesses with deep pockets instead of the mom-and-pop businesses she likes to tout.