Workplace Fairness

Menu

Skip to main content

  • print
  • decrease text sizeincrease text size
    text

Among those who got PPP loans: Washington lobbying firms

Share this post

More than two dozen lobbying, public affairs and consulting firms got loans designed to help small businesses weather the pandemic.

More than two dozen Washington lobbying, public affairs and consulting firms received loans from the federal government to help them weather the pandemic, according to data released on Monday by the Small Business Administration.

Firms that derive more than 50 percent of their revenue from lobbying or political work are barred from receiving the loans — which can be forgiven if companies meet certain benchmarks — under the agency’s rules. The American Association of Political Consultants unsuccessfully sued to overturn the prohibition earlier this year.

But several lobbying firms secured loans through the Paycheck Protection Program despite the rules, including Van Scoyoc Associates, the No. 10 lobbying firm in town last year by revenue, according to a POLITICO analysis of disclosure filings. The firm received a loan of between $1 million and $2 million last month, which helped it retain 63 jobs, according to the data.

Van Scoyoc lobbies for clients that include Amazon, Comcast, FedEx and Lockheed Martin, according to disclosure filings. The firm didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Waxman Strategies, the lobbying firm run by former Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and his son, Michael Waxman, also received a Paycheck Protection Program loan, which Michael Waxman said totaled less than $500,000.

Michael Waxman said the firm was able to apply for the loan because lobbying accounts for less than 50 percent of the firm’s revenue. “It’s only a small fraction of our work,” he wrote in an email to POLITICO.

“The last thing we want to do is lay off employees, now or at any time,” he added. “And we’re thankful the Paycheck Protection Program was designed to provide support for small businesses like ours to weather financially stressful conditions and a still uncertain economic future.”

The lobbying firm APCO Worldwide received a loan of between $5 million and $10 million, while the lobbying firm Banner Public Affairs got between $350,000 and $1 million, according to the data. Another lobbying firm, the Conafay Group, received between $150,000 and $350,000.

Other lobbying firms that received the loans are primarily law firms, such as Miller & Chevalier; Kasowitz Benson Torres; Wiley; Kelley Drye & Warren; and Van Ness Feldman.

Kasowitz Benson Torres has done legal work this cycle for America First Action, a super PAC backing President Donald Trump’s reelection, as well as the Republican National Committee, according to campaign finance records.

Marc Kasowitz, a partner at the firm, also worked as a personal lawyer to President Donald Trump during special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

A Kasowitz Benson Torres spokeswoman said that “together with substantial cost-saving measures and greatly reduced partner distributions,” the loan “enabled us to preserve the jobs of our hundreds of employees at full salary and benefits without interruption.”

The Paycheck Protection Program was created by Congress in March to help businesses with fewer than 500 employees make it through the pandemic — with some exceptions. Strip clubs, payday loan companies and businesses that get most of their revenues from gambling, lobbying or political work were allbarred from receiving the loans under SBA rules.

The agency changed the rules for casinos and other gambling businesses in April under pressure from the casino industry and the Nevada congressional delegation, but lobbying firms weren’t so lucky. Trade groups such as the Business Roundtable and the National Association of Manufacturers are also prohibited from applying for the loans; more than 2,000 trade groups sent a letter to lawmakers last week urging them to change the rules.

But the rules don’t appear to have prevented a number of firms in the influence industry from receiving aid. Many of them are public affairs firms that aim to influence the federal government in ways that don’t require them to register as lobbyists.

The Clyde Group, for instance, states on its website that it can help “corporations and organizations achieve their policy, legislative, regulatory and legal goals by shaping strategies around decision-makers and relevant influencers.” The firm received between $350,000 and $1 million in April, helping to save 26 jobs, according to the data.

The DCI Group, which Bloomberg Businessweek reported in 2018 had conducted six Washington influence campaigns on behalf of hedge funds, received between $2 million and $5 million, helping to preserve the jobs of 96 employees, according to the data.

Neither firm responded to requests for comment.

At least one public affairs firm that received a loan has returned it.

Precision Strategies, a firm started by three veterans of President Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, received a loan of between $1 million and $2 million in May, according to the data. Stephanie Cutter, one of the firm’s co-founders, said they had applied for loan as a precautionary measure but ultimately decided they didn’t need it as much as others might.

“We returned the loan in full last month because we decided there were other small businesses across the country that were more deserving of this money than we were,” she said.

This blog originally appeared at Politico on July 6, 2020. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Theodoric Meyer covers lobbying for POLITICO and writes the POLITICO Influence newsletter. He previously covered the 2016 campaign for POLITICO and worked as a reporting fellow for ProPublica in New York. He was a lead reporter on ProPublica’s “After the Flood” series on the federal government’s troubled flood insurance program, which won the Deadline Club Award for Local Reporting. He’s a graduate of McGill University and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.


Share this post

Business Lobbyists Yearn For The Days When Elaine Chao Ran The Labor Department

Share this post

Image: Pat GarofaloWith the calendar turning to 2010, the Associated Press took a look back at the first year of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis’ tenure, pointing out that “her aggressive moves to boost enforcement and crack down on businesses that violate workplace safety rules have sent employers scrambling to make sure they are following the rules.”

In many ways, Solis has completely reversed the course of the Labor Department that was set by her predecessor, Elaine Chao. And Solis’ crackdown has business lobbyists yearning for the days when Chao ran the show:

“Our members are concerned that the department is shifting its focus from compliance assistance back to more of the ‘gotcha’ or aggressive enforcement first approach,” said Karen Harned, executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business’ small business legal center…Chao has claimed that success was the result of cooperating with businesses to help them understand the myriad regulations. Keith Smith, a spokesman for the National Association of Manufacturers, said his members “want to build upon [Chao’s] progress and recognize what’s working.”

Of course, what worked for big business didn’t work at all for workers, as Chao’s Labor Department spent eight years “walking away from its regulatory function across a range of issues, including wage and hour law and workplace safety.”

Consider some of Chao’s legacy. The Government Accountability Office found that her Department “did an inadequate job of investigating complaints by low-wage workers who alleged that their employers were stiffing them for overtime, or failing to pay the minimum wage.” In one survey, 68 percent of low-income workers reported a pay violation in the previous week alone.

The Department’s own inspector general blamed “a lack of management emphasis on worker safety” for unsafe conditions at mines leading to a jump in worker deaths, while fines for workplace safety violations fell so low that employers began “factoring them in as part of their cost of doing business rather than complying with labor laws.” In all, “workers lose $19 billion in wages and benefits through illegal practices, nearly 6,000 American workers die on the job, and at least 50,000 workers die due to occupational disease” each year.

Solis, meanwhile, “slapped the largest fine in [Department] history on oil giant BP PLC for failing to fix safety problems after a 2005 explosion at its Texas City refinery.” She is hiring 250 additional wage-theft inspectors, and “started a new program that scrutinizes business records to make sure worker injury and illness reports are accurate.”

Labor Department staffers were so disgruntled under Chao that they threw a “good-riddance party” to cheer her departure. But for big business, Chao’s tenure meant acting with impunity and facing puny fines on the rare occasions that that were caught, and they’d like to go back.

*This post originally appeared in The Wonk Room on January 4, 2009. Reprinted with permission from the author.

About the Author: Pat Garofalo is the Economics Researcher/Blogger for WonkRoom.org at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. His writing has also appeared in The Nation, The Guardian, the Washington Examiner, and at New Deal 2.0.


Share this post

Follow this Blog

Subscribe via RSS Subscribe via RSS

Or, enter your address to follow via email:

Recent Posts

Forbes Best of the Web, Summer 2004
A Forbes "Best of the Web" Blog

Archives

  • Tracking image for JustAnswer widget
  • Find an Employment Lawyer

  • Support Workplace Fairness

 
 

Find an Employment Attorney

The Workplace Fairness Attorney Directory features lawyers from across the United States who primarily represent workers in employment cases. Please note that Workplace Fairness does not operate a lawyer referral service and does not provide legal advice, and that Workplace Fairness is not responsible for any advice that you receive from anyone, attorney or non-attorney, you may contact from this site.