Monday, July 6, 2020

Indepen-Dunce Week: Follow The Money

The two-thirds of a trillion or so in Trump regime "small business loans" that I told you was going to turn into massive corporate graft, sleaze, and outright theft was even worse than anyone could have known and in tens of thousands of cases not a single job was saved as they took the money and ran.

Data released Monday by the Small Business Administration show that businesses owned by members of Congress and the law practice that represented President Trump were among the hundreds of thousands of firms that received aid from the agency.

As part of its $660 billion small business relief program, the SBA also handed out loans to private schools catering to elite clientele, firms owned by foreign companies and large chains backed by well-heeled Wall Street firms. Nearly 90,000 companies in the program took the aid without promising on their applications they would rehire workers or create jobs.
The data, which was released after weeks of pressure from media outlets and lawmakers, paints a picture of a haphazard first-come, first-serve program that was not designed to evaluate the relative need of the recipients. While it buttressed a swath of industries and entities, including restaurants, medical offices, car dealerships, law firms and nonprofits, the agency did not filter out companies that have potential conflicts of interest among influential Washington figures.

Several major chains owned by big investment firms, including PF Changs, Legal Sea Foods, and Silver Diner, received millions of dollars, which may rekindle questions about whether large companies with Wall Street connections should accept the money or not. Over the past weeks, dozens of publicly traded companies returned money after they were told by the Treasury Department that the program was not meant for large, well-capitalized companies.
Companies applying for the money were required to certify that the money was “necessary to support the ongoing operations,” while taking into account “their ability to access other sources of liquidity," the SBA’s website states.

Treasury and SBA spokespersons declined to comment. Other administration officials declined to speak on the record about the data.

“We think we’ve done a reasonably good job of suggesting that those who were not going to be able to meet the certification should have returned money,” said one senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to follow the administration’s rules for releasing the information.

And of course, members of Congress outright looted the Treasury, nearly all of them Republicans.

Among some of those receiving relief were Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao’s family’s shipping business. In addition, at least seven members of Congress or their spouses received loans, including lawmakers who were directly involved in shaping regulations and also benefited from a blanket waiver of ethics concerns.

Among the loan recipients disclosed is KTAK Corporation, a Tulsa-based operator of fast food franchises owned by Rep. Kevin Hern (R-Okla.). Hern had advocated to increase the size of loans available to franchises, including in a March letter to Senate leaders Mitch McConnell and Charles E. Schumer.
KTAK reported receiving between $1 million and $2 million to support 220 jobs. Hern spokeswoman Miranda Dabney said the letter was “a bipartisan idea meant to simplify the way loans were calculated,” and said the franchise rule that Hern advocated for did not benefit KTAK because it employs fewer than 500 people.

“These PPP loans are all about paying employees so any expansion or increased funding measures were aimed at helping employees of franchisees stay employed,” Dabney said. “The whole program was designed to keep people off of unemployment.”

Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) benefited when three of his car dealerships, located outside of Pittsburgh, received a combined total of between $450,000 and $1.05 million to retain 97 jobs, according to the data.

Kelly is not involved in the day-to-day operations of his auto dealerships, said spokesman Andrew Eisenberger, and did not participate in discussions between the dealerships and the PPP lender. 
“Kelly’s small family business employs more than 200 western Pennsylvanians whose jobs were at risk because of [Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s] business shut down order,” Eisenberger said.

Several plumbing businesses affiliated with Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.), all based in Broken Arrow, Okla., each received between $350,000 and $1 million. A spokeswoman said Rep. Mullin is not involved in the day-to-day operation of his businesses.

The rich took the cash, fired employees anyway, and pocketed hundreds of billions.

"But Zandar, they have to pay it back, right?"

Sure, they pull accounting tricks and write off losses.

Meanwhile, tens of millions of us lost jobs and the rent's due.

Indepen-Dunce Week: Retribution Execution

The Trump regime's future fascism can ill afford another incident where the Pentagon talks him out of US troops putting a few thousand rounds into protesters, so the loyalty checks and purges are on in the Defense Department.

A pair of 20-something White House staffers will begin conducting interviews with political appointees at the Defense Department starting next week, three current and former U.S. officials told Foreign Policy, a move that some fear could lead to more dismissals of Pentagon officials considered disloyal to President Donald Trump.
The White House liaison office sent an email to political appointees at the Pentagon on Wednesday, inviting officials to schedule a meeting with representatives from the Presidential Personnel Office (PPO). The message, described in detail to Foreign Policy, touts the meetings as a platform for noncareer officials to show off their credentials for a position in a possible second Trump term.

Advertised as “office calls,” the meetings over the course of several weeks will include each political appointee in the Pentagon, from presidentially appointed and Senate-confirmed appointees to their subordinates, according to the email. “This is an opportunity for each appointee to discuss their career and interests for 2021 and beyond,” the email said.
The interviews will be conducted by two subordinates of John McEntee, Trump’s former body man who now runs the personnel office: John Troup Hemenway, an undergraduate student at the University of Virginia, and Jordan Hayley, who graduated from Liberty University in June and heads up PPO’s external relations. Politico first reported in April that Hayley had joined PPO, after Hemenway was brought on in March.

“These meetings were set up by DoD so that our political appointees could discuss second-term opportunities at the Department and throughout the administration,” Chief Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Rath Hoffman told Foreign Policy.

Though the email described to Foreign Policy appears to include all appointed Pentagon officials, a defense official said senior officials such as Defense Secretary Mark Esper are not intended to participate and described the meetings as nonmandatory. Following interviews at the Pentagon, White House personnel are also expected to interview appointees at the State Department and Department of Homeland Security in the coming weeks, officials familiar with the matter said.

But current and former officials who spoke to Foreign Policy worry that the 30-minute interviews will be used to root out officials who aren’t seen as sufficiently loyal to Trump, as the Pentagon has been rocked by the recent departures of several top appointees who broke with the White House on the hold of military aid to Ukraine or had ties to Trump’s political foes.

“I think the assumption is correct—aligned with Trump or you’re out,” a former senior Trump administration official told Foreign Policy.

“Suffice it to say that in my 30 years in government I am unaware of anything quite like this,” Eric Edelman, a former Pentagon policy chief during the George W. Bush administration, told Foreign Policy in an email.

Foreign Policy reported this week that the McEntee-led PPO has been pushing for Rich Higgins, a former National Security Council staffer under Trump fired for a memo that alleged “deep state” political actors were conspiring to overthrow the president, to be hired for a top job in the Pentagon over objections from inside the department. Moving loyalists into political appointments at the Pentagon could position them to move into higher-level jobs if Trump is reelected in November.

The news of the interviews also comes after high-profile departures of officials perceived as disloyal to Trump. The resignation of Kathryn Wheelbarger, who performed the duties of assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs for nearly two years, will become effective on Saturday, after the White House dropped her intended nomination for a top Pentagon intelligence post.

Other recent Pentagon exits appear to be casualties of the House’s impeachment of Trump. Elaine McCusker resigned her role as acting comptroller in June. She was removed from consideration for the permanent post after raising questions about Trump’s aid freeze to Ukraine at the center of the impeachment trial. Former Pentagon policy chief John Rood was also fired in February after finding himself at odds with the president on Ukraine and other behind-the-scenes clashes with the White House

So yeah, just remember, a second Trump term means a rubber stamp military that will obey not the Constitution, not the rule of law, but Trump.

And only Trump.
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