The days of some politicians getting rich while in office are still here. Four or more members of Congress collected benefits due to a half-trillion dollar small-business loan program they assisted in making, but have voted against transparency.
Congress Self-Interest Exposed
In a bipartisan effort, lawmakers have admitted their close connections to companies that have benefitted from the loan program, Politico reported. These businesses are either run by family members or have their spouse as a high-level executive.
The two Republicans listed include Rep. Roger Williams from Texas and Rep. Vicky Hartzler. Williams owns auto dealerships and other car-related businesses and is quite wealthy. Hartzler’s family owns several farms across parts of the country. The husbands of Democrat Rep. Susie Lee of Nevada and Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell of Florida are either a CEO or an executive of high profile businesses that received benefits.
Aides and other congressmen have spoken out, saying there are more than the four listed politicians who’ve benefitted from the self-imposed loan legislation. That information cannot be obtained because only the Treasury Department and Small Business Administration have access.
“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 said.
Concerns Over Lack of Transparency
Philips, a Democrat, is the author of the bill and added that his proposal “was not written to expose members of Congress, because frankly I expected members of Congress to be forthright and transparent to begin with.”
The facts are that most state politicians do not make a lot of money as legislators and not every lawmaker is out to beat the system. However, there are cases like these where politicians supposedly act in their own financial best interests at the expense of the people they are supposed to be working for.
According to the politicians’ defense, they claim that the PPP loans were received through appropriate means and they created the program to help keep Americans afloat during the economic hardship.
Members of Congress Gain Millions
Currently, Williams and Hartzler declined to make public the amount of loan money they received. According to Securities and Exchange Commission filings, Democrat Rep. Lee’s husband’s company, Full House Resorts, got a staggering $5.6 million through the loans. Democrat Rep. Mucarsel-Powell’s husband, who is the executive of Fiesta Restaurant Group, received $15 million, but returned it after the backlash.
There are no rules against lawmakers either applying or accepting loan money. However, it has stirred up outcry from citizens questioning the conflict of interests politicians have when creating coronavirus relief bills that they themselves would benefit from.
Making things worse, there has been extensive scrutiny when it was found out that large corporations with significant connections were first to be given loans, while small businesses were put on waiting lists.
As Americans demand transparency, some of the politicians continue to dodge releasing their loan amount information. There was a push from Phillips by creating transparency legislation that proposed to reveal all of the names of businesses that received a loan. The bill ultimately failed to pass by a slim margin.
“My simple, but very strong belief is that taxpayer dollars — when distributed by Congress and the executive branch of our government — should be transparent and subject to accountability,” Phillips said. “Plain and simple.”
Is Transparency Worth Loss of Freedom?
Both sides of the issue have warrant. There is a conflict of interest when lawmakers greatly benefit from the laws they create, but opening the door for invasion of privacy is a slippery slope that could lead to serious issues.