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2020

Here are 5 questions Florida Democrats need to answer about the PPP loan controversy

This scandal isn’t going away.

It’s been a couple months since federal records revealed Florida Democrats’ applied for and received a $780,000 loan from the Paycheck Protection Program.

The pot of money was largely successful in saving businesses, nonprofits and by extension their employees’ jobs. While the list of entities eligible for the cash was broad, PPP rules made clear political parties weren’t eligible.

FDP has blamed the SBA, they have blamed the lender, leading Democrats have blamed party leaders, yet no one has taken responsibility for what has turned out to clearly have been a calculated plan that backfired.

This is all well-trod ground at this point, but there are still questions waiting on an answer.

Here are the five big ones.

Why aren’t Florida Democrats calling for the loan application’s release?

Democratic politicians at all levels weren’t shy in chastising the party once they heard about the loan. Their outrage, possibly more than anything else, led the party to return the loan money.

But the pols who shamed their own party also called for more details on how the loan came to be in the first place. Since political parties aren’t eligible for PPP funds, the application could shed some light on what went wrong.

Maybe it was an error on the bank’s part. Maybe the party officials who filled out the form stretched got a little too creative on the application. We won’t know until it’s released, and it likely won’t be until Democratic politicians demand it.

What jobs was the loan meant to save?

PPP money, as the name implies, is meant to save jobs.

That doesn’t mean recipients can’t use it on other things, such as rent, utility bills or other essential expenses, but if there aren’t any jobs to save, a PPP loan shouldn’t be in the cards.

The loan money went to the FDP’s building fund, a subsidiary of the party proper, and one that by law is not allowed to have any employees.

It begs the question: Who did the building fund claim they were saving?

Why hasn’t party leadership referred this matter to their audit committee for review?

Party higher ups have claimed the idea to apply for PPP came from lower down the totem pole. Maybe it did. And if so, the party should refer the matter to their audit committee.

The committee’s findings would be embarrassing no matter what they are — either FDP’s right hand is ignorant of what its left hand is doing, or the harebrained scheme started from the top.

With every week that goes by, it looks more and more like the latter. That’s far more problematic.

Who authorized the loan application process and who certified, under penalty of law, that the application was true and accurate?

Though PPP was by all accounts a success, its rollout wasn’t perfect. In the opening weeks of the application window, there was a lot of confusion about who was eligible. On top of it all, financial institutions were encouraged to greenlight loans quickly — essentially, send the money now and save the fine-toothed comb for later.

But while the PPP application form is only a page long, someone still must sign their name on the dotted line saying the information provided isn’t boloney, and if it is, they’re the ones responsible.

It’s about time FDP names names.

Why would you report returning a loan to a bank that was not the lender of the funds?

Some remedial finance education: When a person or business takes out a loan, they are expected to repay it to the bank who gave it to them. FDP didn’t.

This one may be a bit in the weeds, but it still deserves an answer. The PPP loan insinuates their books are fuzzy, but an explanation here could clear up quite a bit.

We’re less than seven weeks from Election Day, and every moment Florida Democrats spend ignoring this scandal rather than getting in front of it hamstrings their chances — not only of making gains in the Legislature, but of delivering votes at the top of the ticket.

Republicans have weaponized this scandal to hammer Senate candidates Javier Fernandez, Patricia Sigman and Loranne Ausley, all of whom are running in districts Democrats could win.

And why shouldn’t they?

To borrow from a Greek fable, “we often give our enemies the means for our own destruction.”

In Florida politics, that’s true for one side more often than the other. Florida Democrats could change that, but so far it’s unclear whether they even want to.

Written By

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson, and Kelly Hayes.
Email: Peter@FloridaPolitics.com
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

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