Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was unaware of a federal loan that went to a shipping company run by his wife’s family, US Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, a senator spokeswoman said Tuesday.
Foremost Group, a New York-based company founded by Chao’s parents, received a $ 350,000-1 million loan from the Paycheck Protection Program this week, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.
A transport ministry spokesman said Chao was also unaware of the loan. “As mentioned earlier, the secretary has no connection to the business and she had no idea that a loan was being taken out,” a spokesman said in a statement Tuesday.
The Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, was established by the McConnell, R-Ky. Federal coronavirus relief package, which was led by the Senate.
The data did not include the exact size of the loan, but it did show that funding helped Foremost Group maintain 20 jobs.
Foremost Group is led by Chaos’ father (McConnell’s father-in-law), James SC Chao, and her sister (McConnell’s sister-in-law), Angela Chao, who is chairman and CEO, according to the company’s website.
Neither Elaine Chao nor McConnell are affiliated with or have a financial interest in the company, which defines itself as “the world leader in the bulk shipping industry” based on publicly available information and financial disclosure forms.
Read more coverage:Kentucky receives $ 5 billion in federal PPP loans
Members of the Chao family, including Angela Chao, contributed to McConnell’s campaigns, federal records show. And James Chao gave McConnell and Elaine Chao a multi-million dollar gift in 2008 to commemorate the death of Chaos Mother.
McConnell and other government officials, including US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, said the PPP should provide vital support to small businesses across America that have been hard hit financially by the coronavirus pandemic.
However, lending has been scrutinized. One point of contention, for example: Almost 400 listed companies received financing.
On Twitter, retired Marine Amy McGrath, the Democrat who ran against McConnell in the November election, criticized the PPP loan that Foremost Group had received.
And their campaign manager, Mark Nickolas, reiterated Tuesday: “Now that Senator McConnell’s wealthy family has received their taxpayer-funded financial relief, it is time for him to stop extending unemployment benefits for the unemployed Kentuckers who they are not. ” as good as him and who just want to make ends meet and pay their bills. “
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A McConnell campaign spokeswoman, Kate Cooksey, also criticized McGrath in a statement Tuesday, alluding to PPP loans that went to several companies that paid for McGrath’s campaign for various services and an organization that McGrath worked for .
(Firms that McConnell campaign paid for services also received PPP funding, federal data shows.)
“Almost every word Amy McGrath escapes is an empty falsehood made up by Washington Democrats that their advisors believe will fool the Kentuckers,” Cooksey said. “The truth is that the paycheck protection program saved thousands of jobs in Kentucky and across the country, and if anyone should know, it was Amy, whose former employer and campaign salesman took out the same loans.”
The employer Cooksey is referring to is the New Politics Leadership Academy, a Massachusetts-based, non-partisan, non-profit organization that recruits military veterans to enter politics.
Federal data shows the organization received a PPP loan between $ 150,000 and $ 350,000.
Financial information for McGrath shows she was previously paid for a scholarship and advice from a Massachusetts-based organization called New Politics.
McGrath’s campaign had not provided a response as to whether she was employed by the New Politics Leadership Academy by the Courier Journal deadline on Tuesday, despite the organization announcing her as a scholarship holder in January 2019.
Gabriel Ramos, the organization’s communications director, later told the Courier Journal that McGrath is still serving as a fellow at the New Politics Leadership Academy.
McGrath is treated like an independent contractor rather than an employee, Ramos said. She is paid for her fellowship work, but he said the PPP loan was not used to compensate McGrath or any of the organization’s other fellows.
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