Warren Calls on New Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery to Investigate “COVID Lobbying Palooza”
Report shows dozens of companies that hired at least one Trump-connected lobbyist received millions in CARES Act aid Under questioning from Sen. Warren, SIGPR Brian Miller agreed in his nomination hearing to investigate the role of lobbyists in distribution of CARES Act Funds
Washington, DC - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) sent a letter to the Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery (SIGPR) Brian Miller calling for an investigation into reports that dozens of companies received CARES Act funds after hiring Trump-connected lobbyists to help seek funds or regulatory favors. In the letter, Senator Warren requests that the SIGPR’s upcoming quarterly report to Congress include an analysis of the role lobbyists and former Trump administration and campaign insiders are playing in helping companies secure CARES Act aid. She also requested information on the process through which federal agencies responsible for the dispensation of CARES Act funds are addressing conflicts of interest and ethics issues.
A new report from Public Citizen earlier this month revealed that 27 companies that hired at least one Trump-connected lobbyist received millions in coronavirus-related federal relief. These lobbyists reportedly secured at least $10.5 billion in COVID-19 related grants, loans, and corporate bond purchases for 27 clients in the last few months.
“This special interest lobbying by former Trump administration and campaign insiders presents serious concerns about real and perceived conflicts of interest and merits important oversight by your office,” said Senator Warren. “As the Special Inspector General appointed to investigate any fraud, waste and abuse of the CARES Act funds it is critical that your office examine the details of this influence-peddling to ensure that taxpayer funds are distributed in a manner that best serves families and our economy, rather than the personal financial interests of well-connected insiders.”
During Mr. Miller’s Senate nomination hearing on May 5, 2020, he committed to Senator Warren that SIGPR would investigate instances where companies lobbying Congress or the White House received COVID-19-related financial aid and guaranteed that he would “request and then subpoena” information not made readily available by the Trump administration in order to conduct thorough investigations and make the information available to the public.
The Office of the Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery has a mandate to “conduct, supervise, and coordinate audits and investigations of the making, purchase, management, and sale of loans, loan guarantees, and other investments” made through programs established by the CARES Act.
In May, Senator Warren introduced the Coronavirus Oversight and Recovery Ethics (CORE) Act, which requires lobbyists to make monthly disclosures regarding all lobbying related to COVID-19 relief spending or lending. The bill also restricts all COVID-19 relief lobbying activity to public, written submissions and prohibit closed door meetings and phone calls between government officials and companies seeking relief, and prohibits any company that receives bailout money from engaging in political spending or lobbying expenditures for a least a year after any loan is fully repaid.
This letter is part of Senator Warren’s continued oversight of the Trump Administration’s COVID-19 response and efforts to protect CARES Act funding from exploitation by economic predators. Recently, Senator Warren urged private equity lobbyists to prioritize and support their existing portfolio companies, and the workers, consumers, and communities that rely on those businesses instead of reaping financial benefits from the COVID-19 pandemic. In May, Senator Warren expressed serious concerns regarding COVID-19 pandemic related bailouts for oil and gas companies because of their intense lobbying efforts which undermine the climate crisis.
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