TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Democratic Party applied for and received $780,000 from the Payroll Protection Program, but the party should not have applied in the first place.
Criticism for accepting the PPP money has come from both inside and outside the Democratic Party.
Democratic state Sen. Jason Pizzo first tweeted it should be returned.
State Sen. Annette Taddeo quickly expressed outrage, as did state Rep. Anna Eskamani.
“We have to be bold enough and brave enough to say something, because if we don’t have values, then what do we have?” said Eskamani.
PPP rules are clear. Businesses primarily engaged in political activities aren’t allowed.
In a statement, the Florida Democratic Party said, in part: “The bank, the loan processor and agents of the Small Business Association approved the funding. It now seems they made a mistake. … So we are volunteering to return it.”
“Returning the funds was absolutely the right decision to make. I really wish that the Trump administration was as responsive when it came to actually funding PPP,” said Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the lone statewide elected Democrat.
State GOP Chair Joe Gruters was reluctant to appear on camera after his certified public accountant firm received a PPP loan.
The Republican Party did not.
Leon County GOP Chair Evan Power said the Democrats should have known better.
“The association of state chairmen sent out a letter saying the Payroll Protection money was not aimed to be used for parties and could cause a legal problem if they did it,” said Power.
When asked whether the incident warranted an investigation, Power agreed.
“I think it’s appropriate to be investigated for taking taxpayer money,” said Power.
At least one Tallahassee lobbying firm has also returned PPP money.
The Democratic Party’s full statement reads:
“Congress passed the Paycheck Protection Plan to support employers and their efforts to provide funds to keep people working — and like many employers during the shutdown, FDP was concerned about meeting payroll and keeping our staff employed, so we applied. The bank, the loan processor, and agents of the Small Business Association approved the funding. It now seems they made a mistake in approving the funding so we are volunteering to return it. As a Democratic Party we are entering this election stronger than ever, with a growing staff and a commitment to electing a President that will address this crisis, rebuild our economy and heal the nation. That President is Joe Biden.”