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Trump Admin. Allegedly Used COVID-19 Small Business Loan Program to Bully and Lie to Planned Parenthood

House Democrats are investigating whether a small business loan program was abused by the Trump administration to bully and lie to Planned Parenthood while rewarding supporters of the White House and Republican Party.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.), respective chairs of the Oversight and Reform and Small Business committees, announced the probe in a Thursday press release.

The inquiry is styled as a demand for documents which, the two New York City-based Democrats contend, suggest the Small Business Administration (SBA) attempted “to target local Planned Parenthood organizations” over their participation in the $659 billion Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

According to Maloney and Velázquez, several local Planned Parenthood affiliates were told they need not apply—apparently in contradiction of the law.

“In May, SBA sent letters to numerous local Planned Parenthood organizations inaccurately informing them that they were ineligible for loans under the program due to their association with Planned Parenthood Federation of America,” said a letter released Thursday which detailed the document demands.

“Singling out safety-net health care providers in the midst of a pandemic further endangers vulnerable populations and contradicts the bipartisan spirit behind the creation of the PPP,” the letter continues.

The announcement also suggests that the Trump administration was using the massive tranche of public funds to punish ideological opponents and reward ideological allies—while alerting friendly media outlets to the alleged bullying in order to, presumably, drive up base support for the Republican Party.

“We are concerned that SBA’s actions were part of a coordinated effort to use the Coronavirus pandemic to attack Planned Parenthood health centers on ideological grounds,” the letter goes on. “Conservative media outlets began reporting on the SBA letters before they were even received by Planned Parenthood recipients, raising questions about whether the letters were intentionally disseminated to the press.”

The Democratic committee chairs maintain that publicly-available data, at least so far, vindicates their charges of ideological favoritism.

Again, the letter:

[A] partial list of PPP recipients disclosed by SBA and the Department of the Treasury on July 6 reveals that numerous 501(c)(3) organizations with similar affiliate structures to Planned Parenthood health centers received PPP loans. SBA also appears to have awarded PPP loans to ideologically-driven advocacy organizations, such as the American Family Association and the American Center for Law and Justice, and a number of crisis pregnancy centers—which do not offer the same comprehensive range of reproductive health care services. To date, there have been no reports of SBA informing these organizations of their ineligibility to participate in the PPP, which draws into question whether the program is being administered free of ideological bias.

The representatives are requesting six categories of documents including a list of lenders who were advised or directed to withhold PPP loans for nonprofit organizations as well as copies of “every letter SBA sent to a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization in receipt of PPP loans advising them of an ongoing investigation of their eligibility or a preliminary conclusion of ineligibility for PPP funding.”

The letter requests compliance by August 6.

[image via MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images]

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