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Monday, August 3, 2020

Top Biden Donors Bailed Out by Trump’s Coronavirus Relief Program

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While Joe Biden has been criticizing President Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, some of the presumptive Democrat nominee’s top donors have been bailed out by the administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

Funding disbursement data for the program unveiled on Monday by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin indicates that a number of individuals who have bankrolled Biden’s campaign have also benefited from PPP loans in recent months.

One of the biggest recipients has been a Delaware-based real estate developer, the Buccini/Pollin Group (BPG). The firm develops and operates commercial and residential properties, including more than 40 hotels nationwide. It has been a large contributor not only to Biden’s official campaign, but also to a super PAC formed to aid his White House ambitions.

Federal Election Commission records denote that one of the companies in BPG’s portfolio of subsidiaries, BPG Real Estate Services, LLC., donated $100,000 to Unite the Country, a pro-Biden super PAC, on December 30, 2019. The contribution came on the same day that BPG’s three principal partners, Robert and Christoper Buccini and David Pollen, each donated around $33,333 to the PAC. At the time of the donations, Unite the Country was gearing up to bolster the former vice president’s position in Iowa, ahead of the state’s first in the nation Democrat caucus.

Robert Buccini, as well as another employee of the firm, also donated to Biden’s presidential campaign, with Buccini maxing out to the campaign in two installments of $2,800 each. The last installment came on April 29 of this year, the same month that BPG received its PPP loans.

Like many companies in the real estate and hospitality industries, BPG appears to have been hit particularly hard by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The company, through its subsidiaries, has applied and been awarded millions from the PPP fund since the outbreak began.

BPG Real Estate Services, in particular, was given a loan ranging between one and two million dollars from the program on April 3. That same day, another subsidiary, BPG Construction, LLC., was also awarded a loan ranging from one to two million dollars. A further PPP loan for between $350,000 and $1 million was awarded to BPG Office Associates, LLC., on April 8.

The real estate giant was not the only firm with ties to Biden that benefited from the Trump administration’s relief efforts.

An entertainment company based out of Santa Monica, California—Sidney Kimmel Entertainment, LLC—received between $150,000 to $350,000 in PPP funds on April 11. The company, which was founded in 2004 by philanthropist and film producer Sidney Kimmel, is a film production, finance, and distribution company. It has produced Hollywood blockbusters like 2007’s the Kite Runner and the American remake of Death at a Funeral in 2010.

Kimmel, whom Forbes estimates has a net worth of $1.3 billion, is a longtime Democrat super donor. On March 16 of this year, he donated $100,000 to Unite the Country. The following day, on March 17, Kimmel donated $2,800 directly to Biden’s presidential campaign.

Unlike BPG or Kimmel Entertainment, the other firm that drew the most notice for receiving PPP funding on Monday is not only run by a Biden donor, but a top surrogate of the campaign.

South Carolina state senator Dick Harpootilan, a longtime Biden confident and lieutenant, received a loan between $150,000 to $350,000 for his law practice. Apart from donating $2,800 to Biden’s campaign and a further $100,000 to Unite the Country, Harpootilan served as the vice president’s top surrogate in South Carolina ahead of the state’s Democrat primary.

The state senator, in particular, was at the center of controversy in the leadup to the contest for seeming to imply that one of Biden’s primary rivals, environmentalist billionaire Tom Steyer, had purchased the support of the leader of the state’s legislative black caucus. The issue was significant enough that Biden, himself, had to apologize for his surrogate’s perceived racial insensitivity at a Democrat presidential primary debate in February.

The revelations about BPG, Kimmel Entertainment, and Harppotilan’s law firm come as the former vice president has castigated Trump for not doing enough to mitigate the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. Biden has accused Trump, both on the stump and in national campaign ads, of having “forgotten” about small businesses as the virus has ravaged the country. “Make no mistake, we’re still in a deep, deep job hole because Donald Trump has so badly bungled the response to coronavirus,” Biden said last week. 

The former vice president’s campaign did not return requests for comment on this story.


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