June 16, 2020 | 2:46pm | Updated June 16, 2020 | 3:42pm
At least four members of Congress, of both parties, benefited from the $670 billion stimulus fund program they voted to authorize — and there could be more, but the legislation does not allow them to be identified, according to a report Tuesday.
The four lawmakers acknowledged having close ties to companies that received loans through the Paycheck Protection Program — through businesses that are either operated by their families or employ a spouse, Politico reported.
They include GOP Rep. Roger Williams, a wealthy businessman from Texas who owns auto dealerships, body shops and car washes, and Rep. Vicky Hartzler of Missouri, whose family owns farms and equipment supply companies across the Midwest, the report said.
Democrats include Rep. Susie Lee of Nevada, whose husband is the head of a regional casino developer, and Rep. Debbie Mucarsel Powell of Florida, whose husband is an executive at a restaurant chain that received the loan and has since returned it.
All four lawmakers voted to approve the aid package.
It isn’t illegal for lawmakers to apply for the funds, and it’s unclear how many other lawmakers received the aid.
The Small Business Administration and the Treasury Department have that data but the Trump administration isn’t releasing it, leaving it up to the loan recipients whether to come forward.
The loans in the Paycheck Protection Program can be as much as $10 million.
House Democrats sought to get a list of recipients released, but the measure was blocked on the floor by Republicans — including Williams and Hartzler, who voted against it.
Lee and Powell voted for it.
“This is the largest distributor of taxpayer money in human history, and we need to ensure taxpayers know where it’s going,” Rep. Dean Phillips, the author of the bill, told Politico.
Phillips (D-Minn.) said the bill “was not written to expose members of Congress, because frankly I expected members of Congress to be forthright and transparent to begin with.”
The four lawmakers told Politico that the loans were acquired through regular channels out of a desire to keep workers employed.
A spokesperson for Mucarsel Powell said her husband played no role in getting the loan and did not benefit financially from it.
Spokespeople for Williams and Hartzler declined to divulge the amounts of the loans.
Politico reported that Full House Resorts, which employs Lee’s husband, got $5.6 million, and the Fiesta Restaurant Group, Mucarsel Powell’s husband’s employer, got $15 million but returned the entire amount.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he is talking with lawmakers about getting more information about the loans but so far hasn’t disclosed the names of any recipients.
“Among other steps, the Administration should release the names of all PPP borrowers,” House Democrats wrote in a letter to Mnuchin on Monday.