The campaign of Sen. Joyce Elliott, Democratic challenger to Republican Rep. French Hill, lays out the reasons why Hill might not be the ideal person to oversee handling of the trillions being distributed in COVID-19 federal relief payments.
He profits from the money, for one thing. Says Elliott’s campaign:
As one of two Representatives on the Congressional Oversight Panel tasked with overseeing the coronavirus bailout, French Hill is responsible for overseeing the trillions of economic relief that have been doled out during the coronavirus crisis. But the release of Paycheck Protection Loan data recently has revealed conflicts of interest that raise serious doubts about Hill’s ability and willingness to look out for American taxpayers and small businesses.
First, French Hill owns as much as $5.25 million of stock in a bank that has issued close to a billion dollars worth of Paycheck Protection Loans – the controversial coronavirus relief loans intended for small businesses — from which it stands to reap millions in profits. Before entering Congress, Hill was Chairman and CEO of Delta Trust, an Arkansas bank, that was purchased by Simmons Bank in 2014. According to his most recent financial disclosure, Hill still owns between $1.1 and $5.25 million in Simmons Stock that brought him as much as $100,000 in annual income.
Banks stand to make billions off of fees from the PPP program – and Hill’s bank is no exception. An analysis of disclosed PPP loan data found that Simmons has issued between $733 million and $1.4 billion worth of PPP loans, which would return between $26 million and $45 million in fees – nearly 20% of Simmons’s total 2019 profits ($237.8 million). More than half of the money Simmons has loaned out has gone to large companies that received loans of more than $150,000 – and 80% of the loans went to companies that did not use the cash to save even a single job. On average, only 13% of PPP loans were not used to save a job. French’s bank stands out.
But Hill’s coronavirus profiteering doesn’t end there. Clients of Hill’s wife, an Arkansas state house lobbyist [part of the powerhouse Mitchell lobbying/law firm], took home between $6.15 million and $12.35 million worth of PPP loans. eQHealth, a healthcare IT company that contracts with the state of Arkansas, raked in between $5.15 million and $10.35 million in PPP loans. NEA Therapy Providers, a therapy company that contracts with public and charter schools in Arkansas and whose owner was recently arrested and convicted of defrauding Arkansas’s Medicaid system, received between $1 million and $2 million – from none other than Hill’s Simmons Bank.
Given Hill’s utter failure to stop the PPP program from doling out funds meant for small business owners to large publicly-traded companies and his glaring financial conflicts of interest, it’s no surprise that Hill voted against disclosing the recipients of large PPP loans.