‘Speaking of Looting…’: Trump Admin. Refuses to Disclose Corporate Recipients of $500 Billion in Coronavirus Bailout Funds

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer at CommonDreams. Originally published at CommonDreams

Progressive critics and advocacy groups are responding with alarm and anger to the Trump administration’s refusal to disclose the names of more than 4.5 million companies that have collectively received over $500 billion in corporate bailout money through a federal program created to provide businesses with relief from the coronavirus pandemic.

The over $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act signed by President Donald Trump in March established the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) with $349 billion in funding for forgivable loans. After the initial capital ran out in just 13 days, lawmakers approved $310 billion more—though over $130 billion of that amount was still left as of Tuesday.

Although, as the Washington Post reported, the Small Business Administration (SBA) “typically discloses names of borrowers from the loan program” on which the PPP is based, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin testified to the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship that he won’t be following that model for the Covid-19 program, despite concerns about which companies are benefiting from it.

As Mnuchin told the Senate committee Wednesday: “We believe that that’s proprietary information, and in many cases for sole proprietors and small businesses, it is confidential information.” The secretary’s comments provoked a barrage of condemnation, particularly among individuals and groups that had previously expressed concern about the PPP.

“Making sure trillions in aid goes to workers, not profiteers, begins with knowing where the aid goes,” Bartlett Naylor, Public Citizen’s financial policy advocate, told Common Dreams of the federal government’s Covid-19 bailout efforts. “Zero transparency is red carpet for hucksters, schemers, and battlefield scavengers.”

Public Citizen tweeted Thursday about Mnuchin’s remarks, blasting his refusal to disclose businesses getting PPP funds as “unconscionable, jaw-dropping corruption.”

Progressives swiftly echoed the group’s critique in their own tweets—including Fordham University law professor Zephyr Teachout, who wrote: “This is outrageous AND exactly what was obviously going to happen AND exactly why many of us opposed CARES as written.”

Jeet Heer, national affairs correspondent at The Nationhighlighted Public Citizen’s response with the introduction: “Speaking of looting….”

Several other critics made similar nods to current events, tweeting: “This is the looting we should be furious about” and “Oh shit. Looting has broken out in Washington.

“This is absolutely unreal,” declared author and activist Naomi Klein. “Looting with masks on.”

Broader charges of corporate looting in relation to the CARES Act have circulated since before it was signed into law. However, in the over two weeks of protests since Minneapolis police killed George Floyd, “looting” has become “the word of the day, on the lips of every newscaster, the president, and elected officials across the country,” as progressive radio host Thom Hartmann wrote for Common Dreams on June 1.

Hartmann and others have made that case that, indeed, “looting is a major problem in America”—just not in the way that the issue has been presented by President Donald Trump and the corporate media, who have spotlighted the property destruction and the stealing of goods that have occurred alongside the demonstrations against police brutality and systemic racism over past few weeks.

“Americans know who the real looters are,” progressive radio host Benjamin Dixon told Common Dreams in late May. Referencing a recent analysis from Americans for Tax Fairness and the Institute for Policy Studies, he added: “It’s the billionaires who plundered America for $434 billion during the pandemic while the essential workers keeping our country afloat make barely over minimum wage.”

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    1. John

      Not shocking. To expect anything else from this administration is stupid. And to think voters think Biden will do anything about this. Ridiculous!

    2. rob

      This is shocking .
      It isn’t shocking that an idiot like mnuchin and the whole “legion of doom” klan of the trump whitehouse era… may WANT to be able to disclose NOTHING…..
      But what is now,and will be even more shocking; is that they will be able to do it….
      Is there nothing about our republic that says , there MUST be transparency, or “you’re fired”?
      Well there oughta be!
      And trumps a “law and order president”….. WTF?
      What is wrong with the people that fall for this?
      I would also guess there are donors to the republican AND the democratic parties in there…. in equal proportions.

    3. Tom Stone

      I wonder where Mnuchin would be if Kamala Harris had followed the unanimous advice of her staff when she was California’s Attorney General and pursued One West Bank and Stevie boy for illegally foreclosing on 30,000 California Home Owners?

  1. Mr. Magoo

    How could this not conflict with some other law? There is absolutely no way this
    should be allowed to stand.

  2. Wukchumni

    Then you will see the rise of the men of the double standard–the men who live by force, yet count on those who live by trade to create the value of their looted money–the men who are the hitchhikers of virtue. In a moral society, these are the criminals, and the statutes are written to protect you against them. But when a society establishes criminals by-right and looters-by-law–men who use force to seize the wealth of disarmed victims–then money becomes its creators’ avenger. Such looters believe it safe to rob defenseless men, once they’ve passed a law to disarm them. But their loot becomes the magnet for other looters, who get it from them as they got it. Then the race goes, not to the ablest at production, but to those most ruthless at brutality. When force is the standard, the murderer wins over the pickpocket. And then that society vanishes, in a spread of ruins and slaughter.

    “Do you wish to know whether that day is coming? Watch money. Money is the barometer of a society’s virtue. When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion–when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing–when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors–when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you–when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice–you may know that your society is doomed.

    Ayn Rand

  3. Jomo

    Everyone be outraged, but go to court and force the info to be revealed (probably after the election). Note Mnuchin’s wording, “We believe that that’s proprietary information, blah, blah….”. Hokum…but a new legal theory requiring a test in the courts, all the way to the Supremes.

    1. sierra7

      “Where are the Democrats”?
      They’ll be “taking a knee” on this one….with the appropriate attire also……..!!!!

  4. WJ

    The notion that this is the doing of the evil Republicans and Trumpists is all just theater. Schumer and Pelosi knew perfectly well what they were doing with the CARES act, and, had they not wanted this to happen, would not have agreed to the provisions in the bill that ensured that it would. The CARES act is the bipartisan legalization of corporate theft and political bribery.

    1. Murgatroy

      Agree- the two parties are so smilar behind closed doors–its mostly Kabuki theatre on the Boob Tube.
      The anarchists will play out worse for the Dems marginal voters and the Trump comments regarding loot and shoot will play out worse for him. But most people vote their pocket books especiailly when times are really getting bad and they see a clear path out of the malaise. When they can blame the Wall St bankers as was the case in 2008, they will vote in a Dem. This time its a socio-economic turmoil issue….and law and order is the only solution that works – until businesses can be re-established. So- people – go through a checklist-
      Vote your Pocket-Book….Trump
      Vote for Safety……Trump
      Vote for Hope and Change….Biden (although it was coined by Obama)
      Looks like Trump wins at this point,…
      the wild card is whether the economy doesnt recover at all between now and November- and despair sets in. But I think he will dangle another $1200 or more check out there if that happens.

  5. Ned

    How convenient that the MSM, which is owned by the same people who own Wall Street, is stirring the pot of racial hatred, melanin indexing and fomenting the decapitation of statues, thus keeping America focused on a different subject than $2.6 trillion in giveaways.

    “Pay attention to confederite Statues, not rewriting financial statutes!”

    1. DJG

      Ned: Most of us are capable of dealing with more than one idea and event at a time.

      Sometimes, I have been known to have two or three ideas in a whole hour.

      Think of it this way: The pillaging of the Treasury by the corporate class going on these last twenty years might not have happened if the feudal leadership of the South hadn’t been eulogized and redeemed after the CIvil War. There: All in one idea.

  6. TimmyB

    Kabuki theater at its finest. Mnuchin don’t help write the law that allows him to disburse billions of dollars without oversight. Nancy Pelosi did.

    And if Pelosi wanted strong oversight it the Cares Act to prevent looting, she certainly had the power to put strong oversight in the bill. She chose not to. The Democrats’ false outrage over no oversight is laughable.

    1. Telee

      A critique of the bailout for giving much more to the already rich would be a great campaign issue. However since Pelosi and Schumer were part of the deal you won’t find them saying a word about this looting.

  7. Chauncey Gardiner

    So why are they refusing to report this information? Besides those possibilities mentioned, another possible reason is because the large recipients plan to or have laid off tens of thousands of employees and don’t want to reveal how much they have benefited financially from this transfer of public money. In addition, this policy obfuscates the magnitude of the financial damage caused by their prior scams that have so materially contributed to the need for these massive Fed-funded bailouts in order for them to avoid bankruptcy. Consider the cumulative trillions of dollars in corporate stock buybacks they funded with debt, for example. Moreover, to do so might impede their future financial subsidies, cause public calls for changes to the tax code, and reduce public acceptance of new austerity policies. Just sayin’… like the various Fed acronym programs, this really isn’t about small business.

  8. Telee

    I thought that the FED can put 10 times or more of its own money behind the 500 billion of the CARES Act which allows trillions of dollars distributed than this article suggests. Also that the bill was passed with a provision that FOIA can not be applied to the Feds distribution. Apparently this was OKed by Pelosi and Schumer.

  9. Jeff

    “Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.” – George Orwell, 1984

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