On Thursday, several congressmen called for a federal investigation into the Florida Democratic Party (FDP) after revelations that it applied for and accepted a large sum from a federal aid program designed to assist small businesses and workers hammered by the coronavirus pandemic and which explicitly excluded political entities.
In a letter led by U.S. Rep. Michael Waltz (R-FL), members of the Florida congressional delegation called for a federal investigation into the FDP’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) application and for all documents, including the application itself, to be made public.
Implemented by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), the PPP offered forgivable low-interest loans to retain workers and cover other existing overhead costs of small businesses facing uncertainty during the current pandemic.
The FDP applied for and received a $780,000 loan in April through a Building Fund – with no employees – and subsequently allegedly funneled the funds to the FDP itself, despite its ineligibility.
In the letter to Small Business Administration Inspector General Hannibal Ware, the congressmen called attention to the FDP’s whopping $780,000 April loan and claimed that “details of the FDP loan application raise serious questions.”
Demanding an investigation into “the facts and circumstances of the PPP loan to FDP,” the congressmen are seeking whether any “false or misleading” information appeared on the loan application, and, if appropriate, urge for the filing of “a criminal referral to the Department of Justice for prosecution.”
The congressman also requested a “briefing to detail any findings” from the investigation and that all “documents and communications reviewed during the course of the investigation” be released.
In addition to Waltz, the letter was signed by Florida. Reps. Bill Posey, Neal Dunn, Greg Steube, Ross Spano, and Brian Mast.
Read the full letter:
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll. Congress intended the program to provide relief to America’s small businesses quickly, and demand for the program was extraordinary: PPP lenders approved more than 1.6 million loans totaling more than $342 billion in the program’s first two weeks, according to your office. The Small Business Administration subsequently released data that shows a political organization may have taken advantage of the program’s expedited nature to obtain funds for which they were ineligible.
Specifically, the data show a Democrat-affiliated political organization in Florida applied for and received PPP funds, contrary to the intent of Congress that the program should support small businesses, non-profits, veterans’ organizations, and tribal concerns. The Small Business Administration issued regulations that specifically prohibit “businesses primarily engaged in political or lobbying activities” from receiving PPP loans. Despite this restriction, the Florida Democratic Party (FDP) applied for and received a PPP loan worth $780,000.
The details of the FDP loan application raise serious questions as to whether the applicant intentionally misled the Small Business Administration in order to obtain PPP funds. FDP filed its application under the identity of a non-profit organization called the “Florida Democratic Party Building Fund, Inc.” The Florida Democratic Party Building Fund, Inc. is a separate legal entity from the Florida Democratic Party, but Florida state records show the party formed the not-for-profit corporation in April of 2019 to construct, own or operate “the headquarters of the state executive committee of the Florida Democratic Party and related political organizations.”
Documents show the Florida Democratic Party Building Fund, Inc. has no employees, and that PPP money was subsequently funneled to Florida Democrat Party staff. Indeed, the Florida Democrat Party acknowledged in a public statement that it sought PPP funds because “FDP was concerned about meeting payroll and keeping our staff employed.” The fact that FDP—which was ineligible for PPP funds—applied for the loan via the Florida Democratic Building Fund, Inc. and the money was subsequently transferred back to support FDP’s payroll raises questions as to whether someone at FDP knowingly made a false statement on the PPP application in question.
False statements in connection with a PPP loan application may be a felony. Applicants must certify the application, and the application itself advises that applicants may be penalized for “knowingly making a false statement to obtain a guaranteed loan from SBA” or for knowingly using the funds for unauthorized purposes.6 The application states that knowingly making a false statement is punishable by a maximum of five years’ imprisonment and/or a $250,000 fine under 18 U.S.C. §1001 (making false statements) and 18 U.S.C. §3571 (sentence of fine); (2) two years’ imprisonment and/or a $5,000 fine under 15 U.S.C. §645 (false statements to SBA); and (3) 30 years’ imprisonment and/or a $1,000,000 fine, if submitted to a federally insured institution, i.e., virtually any bank, under 18 U.S.C. §1014 (false statements to banks with respect to loans). False statements in a PPP application may also subject violators to up to 20 years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine for wire fraud (18 U.S.C. §1343) and mail fraud (18 U.S.C. §1341), and up to 30 years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine for bank fraud (18 U.S.C. §1344), among other things.
In light of the possibility of criminal misconduct in this case, we request that your office takes the following actions:
1. Investigate the facts and circumstances of the PPP loan to FDP, to include whether the information on FDP’s loan application was false or misleading.
2. File a criminal referral to the Department of Justice for prosecution if appropriate.
3. Provide a briefing to detail any findings from your investigation, and provide all documents and communications reviewed during the course of the investigation, including but not limited to FDP’s loan application.
Last month, Breitbart News published an in-depth report on the story — detailing numerous alleged fraudulent activities on the part of the FDP — with several congressmen providing exclusive statements.
In his statement to Breitbart News, Rep. Michael Waltz (R-FL), noting that Congress had explicitly excluded political parties, said “The Florida Democrat Party should disclose their PPP Loan application. Floridians deserve to know who is responsible for swindling a program meant to keep workers employed,” he said.
Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL) told Breitbart News, “I am having a hard time explaining to my constituents how money I voted for to help workers seems to have ended up in the hands of political party operatives who were specifically excluded from eligibility.”
Congressman Neil Dunn (R-FL) told Breitbart News, “I voted for a program to help struggling businesses, not a bunch of politicians looking to fatten their war chest in an election year,”
One top GOP consultant told Breitbart News, “Florida Democrats looted a program intended to protect jobs for hardworking Americans and the mainstream media is doing nothing short of participating in the cover-up. The two pillars of media bias are their refusal to face the truth and their cult of willful ignorance. Meanwhile, a major political party is getting away with an $800,000 heist in broad daylight.”
With FDP members involved in the Biden campaign, and Florida being a critical swing state, the scandal can have far-reaching implications for the upcoming elections.
Follow Joshua Klein on Twitter @JoshuaKlein.