Buchanan-Linked Firms Accept Millions In Federal Loans

Several companies linked to U.S. Representative Vern Buchanan, one of the wealthiest members of Congress, have accepted millions of dollars in federal loans to support employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Monday, the Treasury Department released the full list of nearly 5 million loans approved nationwide. The listing indicates that three Buchanan-owned car dealerships, including Sarasota Ford, have accepted between $ 2.7 million and $ 7 million in loans.

The biggest loan went to Sarasota Ford, which received a loan of $ 2-5 million. Buchanan’s latest financial disclosure report shows its stake in this car dealership to be over $ 50 million.

Asked for comment Tuesday morning, a Sarasota Ford official said the loan was essential to protect nearly 200 employees from layoffs or time off.

“The Paycheque Protection Program has been a lifeline for our workers. Sarasota Ford, with 184 employees, applied for and received funding under the program. Sales and traffic at dealerships across the country have been severely affected by the coronavirus, ”said Toni Trip, chief financial officer of Sarasota Ford. “Thanks to the PPP, we were able to pay workers who otherwise would have been made redundant or put on leave. “

the paycheque protection program guidelines allow loan cancellation if companies take certain measures, such as keeping full-time employees on staff and not cutting wages.

Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, voted for the $ 2 trillion CARES bill, which was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. The package offered $ 365 billion in loans meant to protect small businesses struggling to stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement provided to the Bradenton Herald, Buchanan also downplayed accepting loans at a company he hasn’t run since before being elected. His son Matt is listed as the general manager and operating partner of the dealership.

“I hope any qualifying small business in our area will use the program to ensure their workers continue to be paid during this difficult time. The program is designed to keep employees on the payroll, instead of being fired, ”Buchanan said. “I can’t speak for Sarasota Ford. I haven’t run the business for 14 years. But I hope that small businesses in our region will apply to avoid laying off workers. “

In addition to the Sarasota concession, Buchanan also owns a portion of the Cocoa, Florida, and Elizabeth City, North Carolina concessions. These two concessions have also accepted PPP loans.

The Trump administration issued a dispensation for all members of Congress to receive these loans without ethical review, reports the Washington Post. That didn’t stop State Representative Margaret Good, D-Sarasota, who is contesting Buchanan for the seat of Florida’s 16th Congressional District in November, from calling Buchanan “personal gain”.

“When Vern Buchanan first ran for Congress, he admitted it was a ‘very tempting environment’ for personal gain, but promised he would not be tempted because of his personal wealth.” , said Alex Koren, campaign manager for Good, in a provided statement. at the Bradenton Herald.

“Now we find out that the fourth richest member of Congress couldn’t help but take millions of public funds during a pandemic, while his constituents struggled to secure small business loans and unemployment benefits, “Koren continued. “We can no longer afford Buchanan’s broken promises. “

Treasury documentation indicates that Good, which works as a litigator Sarasota-based law firm Matthews Eastmoore may also have benefited from the federal loan program. The company accepted a loan between $ 150,000 and $ 350,000 to protect 20 jobs. According to its financial disclosure form, Good, however, is not a partner and does not own the law firm.

Max Goodman, Buchanan’s campaign manager, called Good’s criticism “shameless”.

“She thinks it’s OK for her high-priced criminal law firm Matthews Eastmoore to receive federal P3s funds, but not Sarasota Ford. If it feels that way, then Matthews Eastmoore should immediately reimburse the money he requested and received under the program, ”Goodman said in a statement provided to the Bradenton Herald.

“She must explain why defending criminals deserves public support from the very taxpayers who have been the victims of these crimes. Margaret Good and her law firm have stood up for Ponzi scheme schemers and crooks accused of ripping off the elderly and other ordinary people in our community. Why should taxpayer dollars be used to help this law firm and Margaret Good? “

According to Matthews Eastmoore’s website, the law firm focuses on civil litigation and education law. Good specializes personally in the law of malpractice, personal injury and litigation.

“Buchanan’s campaign should establish the facts before launching desperate attempts to distract from Vern’s corruption. Matthews Eastmoore is not even a criminal law firm. Margaret didn’t help create the PPP program, she didn’t apply for a loan and she didn’t receive one, ”Koren said, noting that the law firm paid Good a total of 20,000. $ last year. “If I worked for a congressman who voted to give himself millions in taxpayer dollars and then skipped a vote to hide it, I too would be desperate to change the subject. “

Good and Buchanan will face off in the Nov. 3 general election to represent the 16th Congressional District, which includes Manatee County and parts of Sarasota and Hillsborough counties.

This story was originally published July 7, 2020 12:33 pm.

Ryan Callihan is the Bradenton County Herald reporter, covering local government and politics. On weekends, it also covers the latest news. Ryan graduated from USF St. Petersburg.
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