On Monday, the federal government released the names and dollar ranges for about a fifth of the loans granted through the Paycheck Protection Program.
Journalist and others have been parsing the data ever since, and the spreadsheet is peppered with interesting, sometimes eyebrow-raising, names — Yeezy, anyone?
Plenty of Florida businesses were in the mix, too. All told, there were 42,218 Florida entities were on the list, which only details loans greater than $150,000.
The Florida Democratic Party Building Fund has gotten some heat for the PPP funds it received and there are still questions to be answered about how they qualified for their $350,000-to-$1 million loan, as political parties are explicitly excluded from being eligible for PPP loans.
But FDP wasn’t the only political group to score some cash.
Also on the list was a group called the Black Republican Caucus of Florida, which has no connection to the Republican Party of Florida.
“The group is not an RPOF club and it is not an organization that has been chartered by the RPOF. We have no affiliation with them,” RPOF spokesperson Alia Faraj-Johnson told Florida Politics.
The Boca Raton-based caucus formed in 2016 and filed as an IRC 527 — an IRS designation for political organizations. That alone makes the caucus ineligible for any SBA loan, including PPP.
But there’s more.
As stated in the IRS form, the Black Republican Caucus of Florida is required to report financial data to the state, which they’ve done sporadically at best.
The group’s reports were so delinquent that the Department of State revoked their registration in January. The caucus reregistered in March, though their tardiness continues.
What little they have reported, however, should not have qualified the group for the $150,000-to-$350,000 loan they were granted through the PPP.
The log for 2016 through 2019 shows $34,900 in contributions and $24,647 in expenditures, with no expenditures reported since 2017. In 2020, the group has not reported any income or expenditures. At no time in its history has the Black Republican Caucus of Florida reported any payroll expenses.
Even if their political designation being ignored was merely a slipup, the lack of payroll information is a red flag.
PPP funding must be used to save jobs and the Black Republican Caucus of Florida said their loan would be used to keep 11 people employed.
PPP loan amounts are calculated based on payroll costs, with the loan amount being two-and-a-half times an entity’s average monthly payroll. The amount also considers employee salary levels — it factors in salaries up to $100,000, with any pay beyond that being excluded from the formula.
So, let’s assume the Black Republican Caucus of Florida really does have 11 employees, and in this fantasy land they can also afford to pay each of them at least $100,000 a year despite receiving less than $9,000 a year in contributions.
If that were true, they would qualify for a $229,166.67 loan.
Still, the caucus is not a tax exempt organization and if it was paying out even a fraction of the money they claimed on their PPP application, they would have been forced to report it to the IRS long ago.
Since the turn of the century, organizations claiming IRC 527 status have been required to report their activity to the IRS if they do more than $25,000 in transactions if they are not otherwise reporting to the Federal Elections Commission or the state.
Non-FEC committees — the Black Republican Caucus of Florida was denied super PAC status in 2016 — qualified state or local political organizations must file a Form 990 each year if their activity surpasses $100,000.
If their payroll was even in the same solar system of the multimillions they marked down on their application, that would have been required.
Even the smidgen of transparency provided by the feds makes it clear that there’s something very wrong here.