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I’m not sure why this is being treated almost like a scandal

Tuesday, Jul 7, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Yeah, he’s a conservative Republican. But the forgivable loan was for payroll. The idea was to keep people working during the most momentous economic downturn in American history. He didn’t pocket the money

A dairy owned by Illinois Republican congressional candidate Jim Oberweis received a loan worth $5 million to $10 million from the federal rescue package aimed at helping small businesses weather the coronavirus pandemic, according to data released Monday.

Oberweis Dairy, the North Aurora-based business where Jim Oberweis is chairman, was approved for the Paycheck Protection Program on April 8, according to Treasury Department data.

Oberweis won the March GOP primary to challenge Democratic Rep. Lauren Underwood for a Chicago-area congressional district that is one of Republicans’ top targets this fall. The businessman, who also is an Illinois state senator and an investment manager, has loaned his campaign $1.1 million so far this election cycle, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. His campaign has repaid $500,000 of that money, FEC reports show.

Oberweis bought the family business from his brother decades ago. The company operates over 40 ice cream stores and restaurants and has over 1,200 employees, according to his campaign website. The business is currently operated by Oberweis’ son, who is the company president. Oberweis says his role with the company is advisory and he does not receive a salary. His campaign website says his wife also works for the family business.

Oberweis said in a statement Monday the loan was used to pay for salaries and benefits for employees.

And, yes, a whole lot of small business owners, including lots of people of color, were locked out because their banks focused on big clients. And some companies applied for the money simply to avoid depleting huge reserves. But just because somebody’s name turns up on a list doesn’t mean they’re automatically bad. You do what you gotta do to keep the doors open. You may have a different take, and I’d love to hear it.

Now, if Oberweis opposes helping others after his own company was assisted and doesn’t have a sound explanation, that’s a different story and makes him fair game.

* Some major media outlets also applied for and received the loans

Chicago Public Media, the nonprofit that operates WBEZ, got $2.8 million in PPP funding, a spokeswoman said. Federal help “enabled us to avoid layoffs or furloughs for any staff members during these past few months,” the spokeswoman said in June. Chicago Public Media ultimately laid off 12 employees.

The publishers of the Chicago Sun-Times and the Daily Herald also got loans of between $2 million and $5 million, as did many other familiar names in local business and culture, including:

    The Buona Beef fast-food chain.

    Encyclopaedia Britannica.

    Home Run Inn pizzerias.

    Rosebud Restaurants.

    Navy Pier Inc.

    Shedd Aquarium

    Planned Parenthood of Illinois.

* More from Politico

Schiff Hardin law firm in Chicago received between $5 million and $10 million. The firm counts Maggie Hickey as a partner — the attorney monitoring how the Chicago Police Department complies with a court order laying out reform.

Forde & O’Meara LLP, which represented Rahm Emanuel’s residency case when he first ran for mayor; and Finkel, Martwick, Colson P.C., where Sen. Robert Martwick works when he’s not in Springfield, are also on the PPP list.

And though House Speaker Mike Madigan’s law firm is listed, his spokeswoman tells Playbook that the Democratic Party leader withdrew his loan request so “no PPP funds were received.”

* Madigan spokesperson Eileen Boyce…

This SBA list represents applications submitted and approved, not loans processed. Like many businesses, an application for a PPP loan was submitted, but was withdrawn at the request of Speaker Madigan and Bud Getzendanner. No loans were processed and no PPP funds were received.

* Sun-Times

According to a Sun-Times analysis of all PPP loans in Illinois:

    174,745 were below $150,000.
    14,965 ranged from $150,000 to $350,000.
    8,487 ranged between $350,000 to $1 million.
    2,558 ranged between $1 million to $2 million.
    1,147 ranged from $2 million to $5 million.
    255 ranged from $5 million to $10 million.

* But I will admit I smirked hard when I read this

Americans for Tax Reform Foundation, which says it “educates taxpayers on the true cost of government” and “the realities of costly government programs,” received between $150,000 and $300,000 in loans.

In a statement, Americans for Tax Reform claimed it “never opposed” the PPP program and defended the foundation’s decision to take government loans, which it said allowed the foundation to “maintain its employees without laying anyone off” after it was “badly hurt by the government shutdown.”

But ATR founder Grover Norquist has criticized the unemployment insurance provision of the CARES Act, which he said “delays recovery,” and signed a letter urging lawmakers not to approve a second stimulus bill.

The Ayn Rand Institute, named for conservative philosopher Ayn Rand, received a loan of between $350,000 and $1 million, which it called “partial restitution for government-inflicted losses.”

“It would be a terrible injustice for pro-capitalists to step aside and leave the funds to those indifferent or actively hostile to capitalism,” Ayn Rand Institute board member Harry Binswanger argued in May, stating that the organization would “take any relief money offered us.”

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  1. - John Lopez - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 9:47 am:

    The WBEZ story pointed out Congresswoman Lauren Underwood had no comment on her opponent’s business being on the PPP loan list. Doesn’t stop her supporters from trying to make hay, but looks like the congresswoman has your take on this.

  2. - ChicagoVinny - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 9:48 am:

    I’m not a fan of PPP shaming (outside of Grover Norquist - deserved there). Every industrialized nation has some form of Covid-19 payroll support.

    It’s fair to criticize how PPP was constructed, or administered - maybe there would be better options to achieve the same goal. Also fair to criticize the UI and direct cash payment benefits as not enough.

    But business like Oberweis taking PPP money to support payroll is exactly the point - get the money out in the economy, keep people on payrolls, etc.

  3. - Quibbler - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 9:49 am:

    Agreed that a lot of the coverage of this is the same shallow media outrage that accompanies any government effort to improve people’s lives (even if poorly executed). There may be some legitimate questions as to whether Oberweis’ company got such an eye-popping loan because he’s a Republican official and donor. That said, the real scandal shouldn’t be that Oberweis’ company got such a big loan, but rather than so many others (including those who don’t have a millionaire corporate benefactor) got less.

  4. - Perrid - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 9:50 am:

    The only reason it would be a scandal is if anyone put their finger on the scales to make sure that they or their friends got a loan, which to my knowledge no one is saying has happened with any of the companies so far. Tens, or even hundreds of thousands of companies got loans. We can discuss if the money was doled out in the fairest way, but I don’t think we’re going to find any actual wrongdoing there. The rich get richer (rich is relative here I know but that’s the saying) because the rich are better poised to take advantage of opportunities.

  5. - Proud Sucker - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 9:52 am:

    ===Ayn Rand Institute board member Harry Binswanger argued in May, stating that the organization would “take any relief money offered us.===

    Just as their namesake partook of Social Security.

  6. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 9:55 am:

    I guess this makes conservative Jim Oberweis a socialist?

    My take on PPP is this;

    I don’t care who gets it, as long as they qualify, and every single job is saved by taking PPP. If your beef is this “socialist insertion into the free market” then we’re going lose it woulda lost lots of businesses and jobs.

    Now, the fact that minority owned small businesses were seemingly shut out or unable to get PPP, or that a disproportionate number of non-minority or small businesses didn’t get PPP, that’s a huge problem and it does, politically, make Oberweis a political target and its fair game.

    Of course Oberweis could be a huge proponent of much more aid and assistance, even championing this as a current legislator and candidate, but will Oberweis make lemonade of his PPP or make it sour grapes to voters who see his securing as another white elite hurting small minority owned businesses.

  7. - Back to the Future - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 9:56 am:

    The comments from the Ayn Rand Institute and Grover Norquist are classic. Those comments are what I would call the “Spin” of the day. I read them them 3 times and chuckles each time. I appreciate the research.
    I do believe the overall PPP idea and implantation of the idea are actually high points of the Trump Administration reaction to the Covid pandemic.

  8. - NIU Grad - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 9:58 am:

    Reporting is reporting I suppose. I agree that it isn’t that big of a deal for companies to be taking payroll money. However, it comes at a time when Republicans in Congress are blocking any more individual relief beyond the $1,200 that went out at the beginning of this crisis and the extra $600 of unemployment assistance. Rent was due last week and people are struggling, so it’s a bit of salt in the wound to see how easily big companies have been able to access these funds (even as small businesses were turned away).

  9. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 10:05 am:

    Lol Americans for Tax Reform and The Ayn Rand Institute. Socialism for me and not for thee.

  10. - @misterjayem - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 10:08 am:

    “You do what you gotta do to keep the doors open. You may have a different take, and I’d love to hear it. Now, if Oberweis opposes helping others after his own company was assisted and doesn’t have a sound explanation, that’s a different story and makes him fair game.”

    From the Oberweis campaign website:

    It has become increasingly fashionable for Washington politicians to embrace socialism. Jim knows the inherent dangers of adopting socialist ideas – from wealth redistribution schemes to job-killing tax plans. Our nation was founded on the ideas of free enterprise and innovation, and Jim will support policies that enhance the free market and allow inventors, innovators, and job-creators to thrive. Socialism fails everywhere it is implemented, stifling creativity and freedom. Jim has been a staunch supporter of the free market in the state legislature and in his work in the private sector, and he will continue to champion the free market once elected to Congress.

    I don’t know if it’s a scandal that Jim Oberweis is a hypocrite, but it is a fact.

    – MrJM

  11. - Ducky LaMoore - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 10:16 am:

    We need to stop calling PPP loans “small business loans.” 40 locations and 1200 employees is not a small business. 1 location and 30 employees is a small business. And there is absolutely no regard for peoples’ wealth when applying for a loan. Yes, you could have an LLC for a small business that has less than one million dollars revenue yet at the same time be a billionaire. This seems to be a program for the well-oiled with some crumbs to keep the real small business owners from revolting.

  12. - Cheryl44 - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 10:17 am:

    Da Big just typed out my opinion–thanks!

  13. - Dotnonymous - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 10:17 am:

    Capitalists denounce Socialism…for you.

  14. - Dotnonymous - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 10:21 am:

    Ayn Rand lived on welfare she would have denied others…hypocritically.

  15. - Don't Bloc Me In - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 10:22 am:

    Jim Oberweis’ anti-socialism, the Ayn Rand Institute, ATR. Irony is dead, but hypocrisy lives.

  16. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 10:22 am:

    === Jim Oberweis is a hypocrite, but it is a fact.===

    Hypocrisy might be the least of his worries, given his own history and Trump’s signaling, but hypocrisy is an Oberweis staple… even if it’s all legal and above board.

  17. - Techie - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 10:25 am:

    Not a scandal, just ironic to see a business with Jim’s family name taking government money when he opposes government intervention in the marketplace.

  18. - ILPatriot - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 10:31 am:

    He says families shouldnt get pandemic checks but is happy to take millions for his companies when he has plenty of his own money!

    43 minute mark:

  19. - thunderspirit - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 10:34 am:

    MrJM has the correct take on Oberweis.

    My issue with the PPP is the way it was administered — its focus was clearly not on small businesses, as it was meant to be — not the idea itself.

  20. - Jibba - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 10:36 am:

    “It would be a terrible injustice for pro-capitalists to step aside and leave the funds to those indifferent or actively hostile to capitalism,”

    What an absolute hoot. If socialism is being given out, us capitalists need to be first in line.

  21. - Centennial - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 10:44 am:

    The Aryn Rand criticism is valid because they have made Buisness model denouncing “government handouts” — until they get one. Not sure even that is a scandal but it is valid to point out hypocrisy.

    The other actual businesses, restaurants, and NFPs that received PPP did so, it appears, in accordance with the program. WBEZ themselves sought one. Their recent attempts at scandalizing legal conduct for clicks should be beneath an otherwise good news org.

  22. - Bob Loblaw - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 10:44 am:

    Setting up a non-universal benefit implies a picking and choosing. When the people getting picked are the same people doing the denying of benefits to others, it raises alarms. When the people getting picked are already filthy rich and the people getting denied are in the edge of ruins, it raises alarms. Elaine Chao shouldn’t be getting money before the struggling candy shop down the street

  23. - Diver Down - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 10:49 am:

    If there was one business that didn’t seem to be hurt during the pandemic it was the Oberweis Ice Cream shoppes. There have been long lines in the drive thru since mid-March (at least at the one by my house and in Glen Ellyn).

  24. - Annonin' - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 10:52 am:

    Surprised when Trump did a 180 releasing names, but then we noticed it appears to have Glaine MaxwelI stories right out of the box — at least for a day — probably needed after Fox used the DJT=Epstein+First Lady+Glaine

  25. - Dotnonymous - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 10:52 am:

    No man extols the virtues of Capitalism more than the fellow who has inherited the Family Farm or Store.

  26. - City Zen - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 10:53 am:

    ==Lol Americans for Tax Reform and The Ayn Rand Institute==

    On the flip side, pro-tax think tanks EPI and ITEP received PPP as well. Using tax dollars to fund research on how to raise taxes.

  27. - southsider - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 11:11 am:

    == - ILPatriot - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 10:31 am:

    He says families shouldnt get pandemic checks but is happy to take millions for his companies when he has plenty of his own money! ==

    God help me, I feel like I almost have to defend Oberweis here. It’s not a secret that he believes people should have jobs and jobs come from corporations. It’s only logical that he would support taxpayer dollars to keep people employed and earning paychecks but oppose using taxpayer dollars without a string attached, such as a requirement that you work.

  28. - Here we go again - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 11:32 am:

    I was just reading that Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club in Washington Park got between 350k to 1 million. So the Milkman getting some money shouldn’t upset people. Flynt kept 42 people working.

  29. - Tweed - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 11:39 am:

    Phase 1 of PPP was a scandal when you had huge corporations get their funding and then the window was slammed shut. Thousands of small businesses had no idea if there was going to be another round of funding and companies like Potbelly’s had millions of PPP dollars. Many large companies returned the money, Potbelly’s included, when public pressure mounted.

    Phase 2 is not very scandalous. Funds were opened back up. Funds are available right now. The deadline has been extended. Anyone that wants to apply for PPP funds is able to do so.

    As Rich and others have pointed out, just applying does not mean that you received funds. Any funds that you receive are supposed to be spent on payroll and some other business essentials like utilities and rent. CFOs, Finance Managers, accountants, attorneys, bookkeepers, even interns could apply for a PPP loan if they had the right information. Due to the uncertainty of the economy for the next couple of months and much longer, it would be negligent to not at least research PPP loans as an option to keep your employees in place and financially secure. No company should be shamed for researching their options on that (although there definitely is the irony of any organization that claims to be ‘free market’ taking on a PPP loan). Many companies decided to not take the loans once they realized that their businesses are not going to be as negatively impacted by COVID-19 as they thought.

    We will be getting into Phase 3 and other Phases of this program. We will undoubtedly see scandals there. Companies that took PPP will have fired people before PPP secured their employment. Individuals with multiple LLCs will have applied for and received PPP loans. Leaders at some companies will have kept their own pay but lowered pay for others. That will be harder to track, especially if the list of PPP loans under 150k remains anonymous.

    Then there’s the questions about the effectiveness of PPP overall. That’s probably the bigger scandal. The funds for PPP guarantee pay for a couple more weeks. What happens then? We don’t have an answer for that yet. Some companies may still not apply for PPP. They could turn down funding (possibly because of potential shaming) and that may hurt them financially down the line. Employees at those companies will suffer by no fault of their own. On the other end of things, there are companies that have seen business increase due to COVID-19 and they will still have accessed PPP funding.

    We don’t have the full picture but I predict this - there will be a movie like The Big Short about PPP, about 5% of the script material is available to us at the moment, the information we received yesterday might not even be a line in the film.

  30. - Dee4Three - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 12:29 pm:

    I’m fine with anyone taking a PPP loan as long as the gravamen of your entire political platform is “the socialists are coming”. If that’s the case, we should definitely at least be able to make fun of you.

  31. - Dee4Three - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 12:30 pm:


  32. - 44th - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 12:45 pm:

    I have a problem when these large law firms take the $. Many of the partners make millions. Cut their salaries and keep going is a viable option. They also can tap lines. No need for free tax payer money. Saw private club soho house that just riaiaed $100mm but they need tax payer funds. To fund a private club with a long wait list. Doesn’t sit right.

  33. - Southern Skeptic - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 2:08 pm:

    I run a professional services business and we applied for and received PPP. I did it to protect my employees salaries and benefits during extremely uncertain times. For many, the program worked exactly as it was supposed to. Sure, there were massive hypocrites like Ayn Rand, The Daily Caller and Grover “I want to make government so small that I can drown it in a bathtub “ Norquist. And yea, there were clearly many who abused the system. But for a lot of us out here, the program worked as it was supposed to and for that I’m great full to the Democrats in Congress who pushed to ensure small businesses would be protected. Unfortunately for Oberweis, one of those Democrats who helped craft the program he benefitted from is his opponent. So there’s that.

  34. - Candy Dogood - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 3:43 pm:

    Generally I think it is getting reported like a scandal because it looks a wee bit like self dealing.

    It’s also worth noting that only 75% of the loan proceeds had to go to employee salaries in order to qualify for loan forgiveness and could also cause for situations which resemble ghost pay rolling someone. I have seen specific examples where employers attempted to rehire someone that had been fired (not laid off) and demand that they return to work under threat of having their unemployment contested, etc, because of this loan program.

    I also think it is worth contrasting business owners who accept the loans that run for or hold public office and express views other than those which they operate their business by. If I were Oberweis, I’d prefer answering questions about this than other things that could potentially be more damaging.

    I think the next administration will have fun investigating if proceeds were used correctly for business that claim the forgiveness component.

  35. - Not a Billionaire - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 6:41 pm:

    I agree in hypocrisy and these are not all that small but some of them are owned by claimed or purported billionaires. 10 million should be a founding error for a billionaire. Either it’s greed or there are a lot of Trump.

  36. - srboisvert - Wednesday, Jul 8, 20 @ 6:14 pm:

    I get that the money was just fired through a hose at everyone who could get a bank’s attention but it is a bad look for Oberweis because the grocery sector actually benefited from the covid-19 lockdown rather than being hurt by it. Grocery spending went way up as people ate at home more. So unless Oberweis had significant restaurant business this was pretty much windfall.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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