Aug 20, 2020 - Economy

The PPP shame game targets Josh Kushner's Thrive Capital

Animated illustration of two hands moving a goalpost back and forth.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Paycheck Protection Program expired earlier this month, but the insidious PPP shame game remains very much alive.

Driving the news: On Tuesday, a left-leaning government watchdog group called Accountable.US emailed reporters about how at least five portfolio companies of Thrive Capital, the venture capital firm led by Joshua Kushner, received PPP loans.

The email called these loans "another example of how the well-connected exploited the program at the expense of mom-and-pop shops across the country."

  • Accountable.US provided no evidence that Joshua Kushner ever discussed these loans with his brother Jared, or anyone else in the Trump administration. Neither in the email nor when I asked directly.
  • In fact, it linked to a NY Post report about the loans, which states that Thrive "strongly warned against taking PPP funds in an April 7 email to portfolio companies that asked for advice about the loans." But none of that made it into the Accountable.US email.
  • Thrive doesn't sit on the boards of any of the relevant companies.

Thrive's email argument to portfolio companies was that the loans were intended for mom-and-pop businesses, not venture-backed startups.

  • As regular readers know, I disagree with Thrive on this point — believing instead that PPP's purpose was to save small business jobs, wherever they may be.
  • My point-of-view was shared by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and later codified via Treasury Department guidance on affiliation rules.

Reasonable people can disagree here, and certainly there were serious fairness and access issues with how PPP was rolled out.

  • And there was no doubt fraud that hopefully will be uncovered, prosecuted, and better defended against if Congress and the White House ever get their act together on the next phase of federal stimulus (which is expected to include a PPP extension).

But claiming that what Thrive or its startups did was exploitative is, in itself, a cynical attempt to exploit political animus. It, and efforts like it, should stop.

[Note: Axios qualified for a PPP loan, which it later chose to return.]

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