By Alberto Garcia
Former Congressman Darrell Issa took a federal COVID-19 relief loan for one of his businesses then loaned more money to his campaign for Congress, sparking criticism over whether he really needed to the loan that could have otherwise gone to help save other small businesses during the pandemic.
Issa, who was the richest member of Congress when he served between 2000 and 2018, received a loan for one of his companies, Green Properties, Inc., on May 3rd totaling between $150,000 and $350,000. Issa is listed as the Chief Executive Officer and the only director of the company, and his wife is listed as an employee. The company is one of several owned by Issa, who’s personal wealth is estimated to be between $280 million and $400 million.
On May 27, Issa loaned his own campaign $150,000, in addition to $3 million he loaned his campaign before the March primary election.
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was created as part of the federal relief programs aimed at helping businesses stay afloat and retain workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The loans will be fully forgiven by the government if at least 60% of the funds are used for payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities. Under the program guidelines, most loans will never be repaid.
Although the loan program was intended to help small businesses, several large publicly-traded companies, including Shake Shack and Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse restaurants, large shopping center companies, and large hotel chains received loans of up to $20 million. Critics argued that large companies had access to traditional loans, debt markets, and even the stock market and should not have taken emergency relief loans meant to help struggling small businesses that did not have access to emergency funding.
The PPP program initially distributed $350 billion in loans, and then grew to $669 billion.
Issa, a Republican, who retired from his North County congressional seat in 2018, is running for Congress in the 50th District in East County this year. He earned a spot in the November General Election after coming in second place ahead of several other Republicans, including former city councilman Carl DeMaio, and State Senator Brian Jones. Issa is facing off against Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar, who earned the most votes in the March Primary Election.
The 50th Congressional District includes the areas of Santee, Poway, Ramona, Alpine, Escondido, and areas up to Temecula. The congressional seat is currently vacant after Congressman Duncan Hunter resigned in March after pleading guilty to misusing campaign funds, along with his wife. He was sentenced to 11 months in prison but has not yet begun serving his time because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The winner of the General Election will be sworn-in in January.