After weeks of pressure from watchdog groups, the U.S. Treasury Department on Monday released the names of more than 650,000 companies which received emergency relief funds of $150,000 or greater from the government’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a massive project designed to help small businesses retain jobs during the economic shutdowns necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic.
However, the program came under scrutiny almost immediately amid allegations of corruption and as loans were exhausted despite outstanding need. Though the data dump does not illustrate a program rife with wrongdoing, it does reveal that three of the companies which cashed in belong to the family of President Donald Trump’s senior White House adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner.
First there is Kushner’s old newspaper, The New York Observer, which allegedly collaborated with WikiLeaks in the run-up to the 2016 election.
Between $350,000 and $1 million in pandemic relief went to Observer Holdings LLC, the parent company of Observer Media, the news company Kushner owned before leaving for the administration in 2017.
However, the family held onto the company. Kushner’s brother-in-law Joseph Meyer currently lists it among his holdings, according to the Daily Beast. The PPP loan allowed the company to keep 41 jobs, according to SBA data. (Disclosure: Salon received a PPP loan to keep our staff and independent journalism at 100%.)
According to former Observer staff, Kushner did not even read his own paper.
“There was one meeting he showed up to and one person asked him what was his favorite story that the paper had run recently,” one ex-staffer told Vanity Fair. “He had to think about it for a very long time in order to remember anything he’d read. He very obviously didn’t read it.”
In an op-ed this May, The Observer’s former editor-in-chief Elisabeth Spiers claimed that Kushner’s botched response to the COVID-19 was strikingly similar in style to his alleged mismanagement of the paper.
“This is basically Kushner’s modus operandi, and it’s painfully familiar to me because he was my boss,” Spiers said. “When I knew him, he seemed constitutionally incapable of considering the humanity of other people as a starting point. Relationships were primarily transactional, and this failure of empathy permeated everything he did.”
Two of the Kushner family’s New Jersey hotels also pulled PPP loans. Per Treasury Department data, Princeton Forrestal — owned by Kushner’s mother, brother and sister — took somewhere between $1 million to $2 million in emergency relief. Esplanade Livingston, a company which owns the land for the Kushners’ Westminster Hotel, drew between $350,000 and $1 million.
The Daily Beast reports that mortgage documents filed in Essex County, N.J., demonstrate that Esplanade Livingston is controlled by a company called C.K. Livingston LLC — the initials of Jared Kushner’s father, Charles. Jared’s 2017 disclosures list the hotel as a source of income.
The New York Times previously reported that a Democratic provision intended to block Kushner from tapping into the relief funds might not actually apply to him personally. The provision bars loans from going to companies in which government officials or their family members directly have an ownership stake of at least 20%. However, Kushner often splits ownership with family members and other investors.
A volunteer with Kushner’s shadow White House coronavirus task force filed a complaint with the House Oversight Committee, alleging an array of improprieties, including unfit staffing choices and self-made failures to get desperately needed personal protective equipment
May’s whistleblower complaint also alleged that Kushner had prioritized requests from Trump allies and Fox News media personalities. One of those personalities was reported to be Brian Kilmeade, the co-host of Trump’s favorite morning show: “Fox & Friends.”
During an April appearance on the show, Kushner, who is married to the president’s eldest daughter Ivanka Trump, celebrated his own work as a “great success” story.
“We’re on the other side of the medical aspect of this,” Kushner, who has no previous medical experience, said at the time.
“I think you’ll see by June a lot of the country should be back to normal and the hope is that by July the country’s really rocking again,” he added.
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