Lobbying groups received millions in PPP loans

Lobbying groups received millions in PPP loans
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Dozens of organizations that lobby the federal government received loans under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which provides funds to small businesses and nonprofits struggling due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Trump administration released data on Monday about the recipients of the small-business loans, which are forgivable if the money is used for payroll, mortgage, rent and utilities and the recipient maintains employee and compensation levels.

Trade associations, professional societies and local chambers of commerce — all of which are classified as 501(c)(6) organizations — are not eligible for the program. But many groups that conduct lobbying are classified as nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations and were allowed to apply.

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Trade groups have lobbied Congress to make changes to the program, which was part of the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill Congress passed in March, so they can be included as well.

APCO WorldWide, a lobbying firm, received more than $5 million in loans. The company was hired by five clients in 2020, totaling $40,000. Clients included the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints and China Ocean Shipping Co., according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

Law and lobbying firm Wiley Rein also received at least $5 million. It was hired by 16 clients in 2020, totaling $660,000. Clients include the National Association of Broadcasters, AT&T, Fox Corp. and Verizon.

The American College of Cardiology Foundation received more than $5 million in loans. The lobbying arm of the organization has spent $500,000 in lobbying expenditures, with 11 in-house lobbyists on retainer, so far this year.

The group told The Hill that the foundation that received the money is the charitable arm of the organization.

Lobbying firm Van Scoyoc Associates received at least $1 million in loans and has made more than $3.7 million so far in 2020 from 151 clients, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. The firm’s clients include the American Hotel & Lodging Association, the city of Denver, Comcast and Lockheed Martin.

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Law and lobbying firm Van Ness Feldman received at least $2 million in loans. It has made over $1 million in lobbying so far in 2020 and has 41 clients, including Expedia, the city of Los Angeles and the state of Louisiana.

Another law and lobbying firm, Miller & Chevalier, received at least $2 million in loans and has made $630,000 so far in 2020 from 23 clients. Clients include CVS Health, Honda Motors, McDonald’s, Nokia and Wegmans Food. 

Lobbying firm DCI Group received at least $2 million in loans. The firm was hired by four clients in 2020, totaling $60,000. Verizon is one of its clients.

Lobbying firm Waxman Consulting, where former Rep. Henry WaxmanHenry Arnold WaxmanLobbying groups received millions in PPP loans The Hill's Top Lobbyists 2019 Lawmakers come together to honor Cummings: 'One of the greats in our country's history' MORE (D-Calif.) serves as chairman, received at least $350,000 in loans. The firm has made more than $182,000 so far in 2020 and has nine clients, including the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and the Good Food Institute.

“Waxman Strategies, like many small businesses, has been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and we face tremendous uncertainty about the cumulative impact of the global economic slowdown. We qualified and were approved for an SBA loan as part of the Paycheck Protection Program,” Michael Waxman, president and CEO of the firm, told The Hill.

He added that he has a fiduciary responsibility to look out for the best interests of the firm, employees and families.

“The last thing we want to do is lay off employees, now or at any time. And we’re thankful the Paycheck Protection Program was designed to provide support for small businesses like ours to weather financially stressful conditions and a still uncertain economic future,” Waxman said.

House Democrats have tried to stop lobbyists from receiving PPP loans. The House-passed $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill, which is unlikely to pass the Senate, includes a provision that prevents any business that has a lobbyist on its payroll from counting that lobbyist in calculating payroll costs in seeking PPP loans.

Several nonprofits with lobbyists on staff qualified for loans.

The American Council on Education received at least $2 million in loans. It has spent nearly $132,000 on lobbying expenditures in 2020 and has six in-house and two Ernst & Young lobbyists on retainer, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

Nonprofit ocean conservation organization Oceana received at least $2 million in loans. It has spent $211,000 on lobbying expenditures in 2020 and has two in-house lobbyists. 

The National Association of Children’s Hospitals received at least $2 million in loans and has spent $920,000 on lobbying in 2020. It has 21 lobbyists on retainer, including contracts with the firms Alston & Bird and CGCN Group. In 2019, the association spent just under $4 million on lobbying, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

The National Council for Behavioral Health also received at least $2 million. The council has spent more than $125,000 on lobbying expenditures so far in 2020 and has 10 lobbyists on retainer. 

Nonprofits that received at least $1 million in loans include the American Public Transportation Association, which has spent $430,000 on lobbying in 2020 and has 20 lobbyists on retainer, the American Association for Clinical Chemistry, which has spent $70,000 on lobbying and has four lobbyists on retainer, and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, which has also spent $70,000 on lobbying and has four lobbyists on retainer. The American Humane Association has spent $30,000 on lobbyists; the American Public Health Association has spent more than $37,000; and the American Society for Engineering Education has spent $30,000. 

NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation received at least $350,000 in loans. The organization has spent $10,000 on lobbying expenditures in 2020 and has three in-house lobbyists, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

The Americans for Tax Reform Foundation, the non-lobbying arm of Americans for Tax Reform, received a loan of at least $150,000.

“Americans for Tax Reform Foundation (ATRF) — a legally and financially separate research and educational 501(c)3 — was badly hurt by the government shutdown. It applied for and received a loan and has as a consequence been able to maintain its employees without laying anyone off. ATRF does not engage in lobbying,” the group said in a statement.

Americans for Tax Reform, which was founded by Grover Norquist, did not apply for or receive any grant or loan, the statement said. The foundation’s mission is to educate taxpayers on the cost of government by not only taking into account the costs of taxation but also the expense of regulations and government programs.