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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.]

Go deeper

Melania Trump used private email accounts in the White House, ex-aide tells WashPost

First lady Melania Trump addresses the Republican National Convention fat the White House on Aug. 25. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

First lady Melania Trump "regularly" used private email accounts while in the White House, her former adviser Stephanie Winston Wolkoff alleged to the Washington Post in an interview published Tuesday night.

Why it matters: President Trump made the FBI investigation into 2016 Democratic rival Hillary Clinton's private emails and server a major focus of his first presidential campaign and has continued to raise the issue during his re-election bid.

Philanthropy Deep Dive

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A look at how philanthropy is evolving (and why Dolly Parton deserves a Medal of Freedom).

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Politics: Fauci says he accepted Biden's offer to be chief medical adviser "on the spot" — The recovery needs rocket fuel.
  2. Economy: U.S. economy adds 245,000 jobs in November as recovery slows — America's hidden depression: K-shaped recovery threatens Biden administration.
  3. Education: Devos extends federal student loan relief to Jan. 31
  4. States: New Mexico to allow hospitals to ration coronavirus medical care
  5. Vaccine: What vaccine trials still need to do.
  6. World: UN warns "2021 is literally going to be catastrophic"
  7. 🎧 Podcast: Former FDA chief Rob Califf on the vaccine approval process.