ME-Sen: The Daily Beast, “How Susan Collins’ (R) Small Business Bill Helped Bail Out Big Ones”

Eleanor Clift at The Daily Beast has a great piece about how U.S. Senator Susan Collins’ (R. ME) likes to brag about how she co-authored the Paycheck Protection Program but she doesn’t mention that her top contributors had a lot of influence in her drafting the bill:

Collins acknowledged in a radio interview on Maine broadcaster Mike Violette’s radio show Wednesday morning that she was one of the senators who’d worked to include an exception in the bill that allowed big hotel and restaurant chains to receive PPP money as long as they had fewer than 500 employees “per physical location.”

Noting that the initial draft of the PPP did not have that “carve-in” for chains, Common Cause’s Beth Rotman, an expert in money and politics, told the Daily Beast, “Essentially a combination of wealthy special interests together with well-placed contributors at a critical moment bought a revision to our stimulus package that defined small business as including big business because they owned large franchises made up of hundreds of smaller entities. They were following the law they helped write.”

An examination of contributions to Collins for Senator, and to her leadership PAC, during the first quarter of 2020 reveals $13,000 in contributions in mid-to-late February from the American Hotel and Lodging Association PAC, the Hilton Worldwide PAC, and the International Franchise Association.

Those contributions—a fraction of the money she’s raised is this cycle—came before the PPP bill was under consideration, as the economic damage the virus would inflict became clear in March. After the bill was passed later that month, hotel and restaurant chains of all sizes moved quickly to secure the forgivable loans, sparking public outrage. A Pennsylvania investment firm that owns the Ritz-Carlton Coconut Grove in Miami applied for as many as 48 of the taxpayer-backed loans, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

At the end of April, the CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association co-wrote an op-ed for the Bangor Daily News with the CEO of Hospitality Maine, declaring that “Maine hoteliers, and the industry at large, are lucky to have Collins advocating on our behalf” and stopping just short of endorsing her re-election bid as Maine’s tourist industry struggles to adapt to COVID-19.

Clift acknowledges that while the hotel industry has been hit hard during the pandemic, the problem with Collins language is it allowed franchises and chains like Shake Shack and the Los Angeles Lakers to take in money from the program rather than going to the businesses that really needed it. Collins top opponent, Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon (D. ME), has been making Collins and the federal government’s response to this crisis an issues in this race:

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Let’s give Collins the boost. Click here to donate and get involved with Gideon’s campaign.