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The [Wednesday] Papers

"The red-light camera company entangled in a federal corruption investigation and an airport janitorial contractor in Chicago are among the clout-heavy companies getting large amounts of federal funding to weather the coronavirus pandemic, according to documents released this week by Trump administration officials," WBEZ reports.

"Another loan from Washington's new Paycheck Protection Program went to the security firm owned by Sean Morrison, the south suburban politician who leads the Cook County Republicans and is a commissioner on the county board."

OK, but did these companies do anything wrong in applying for and receiving PPP funds?

Are those companies larger than the intended beneficiaries, the way that, say, Potbelly was?

Because we've got a lot of what I call inference journalism going on - so-called objective journalists making inferences - without all the dots connected - that something hinky has gone on and you should be outraged about it.

The most common form of inference journalism I see locally is when a news report will note that Subject A gave, say, $100 to Subject B's campaign 20 years ago, and that's why, at least in part, the report infers, Subject B is doing Subject A a favor right now. I get it if you are trying to show a long association between parties, but even the mopiest aldermanic mope is going to return a favor for a hundred bucks two decades prior.

So when it comes to PPP payouts, by all means scrooten. But let's not engage in Paycheck Protection Porn. That money is intended to keep people on payrolls of small companies, no matter how noteworthy the companies or their owners are. The program originally required that 75% of the payouts go to payroll, though that has now been amended. I don't know if the feds will truly keep track - pushing the money out the door seems to have taken precedence over whatever oversight will occur. That's not to say there aren't abuses we should be outraged about, such as the Kushner family taking several PPP packages. On the other hand, the regulations apparently didn't state that immensely wealthy folks have to dip into their own accounts to keep their payrolls afloat rather than sponge off taxpayer money. Maybe they should have!

The larger issue, as has been raised by many others, is whether people of color, and Blacks, specifically, were disproportionately left out of the program. And the answer is, Yes! Of course. If nothing else, this is yet another example of structural, or institutional, racism. Those who designed the program may not personally be bigots, but they failed to understand (or didn't care) how the structure of banks and other lenders would disadvantage Black folk.


Here's Rich Miller on his Capitol Fax blog making the same point about Oberweis Dairy, owned by uber-wealthy state Sen. Jim Oberweis, taking PPP money:

"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 . . . "

If the money truly went to his workers, and they get paid more than they would get on unemployment, it's a win for his workers. I'm sure they're thrilled he applied for the funds.


Now let's go back to that WBEZ report. SafeSpeed is the red-light camera company "entangled in a federal corruption investigation." Should that make SafeSpeed ineligible to receive funds to help maintain their payroll during a global pandemic?

"We are a small, minority-owned business that employs a diverse workforce that is predominantly minority and we wanted to do all we could to preserve as many jobs as possible," SafeSpeed spokeswoman Noelle Gaffney said in a statement sent to WBEZ. "Although some layoffs were necessary, we were able to keep a core staff employed."

I don't know if Gaffney and/or SafeSpeed execs refused to come to the phone, but it's not an outrage until I know how the money was disbursed, why there were still layoffs and if the execs took any honey for themselves.


The airport janitorial contractor is the ever-problematic United Maintenance Co., and their PPP funds raise several unanswered questions (I realize it's only been, what, less than 24 hours since the data was released, but just sayin'). United has a contract with the city, so presumably they've gotten paid or are still getting paid. It's not clear to me that their payroll was threatened, but I actually have no idea (and neither do you!).

The laundry list of United's misdeeds over the years is a nice reminder, but again, should that have made them ineligible to keep their janitors whole - if that's what is happening - through the use of federal funds?


"[Company President Richard] Simon long has been a major campaign contributor to Chicago politicians, including Ald. Edward Burke, 14th, who is facing federal corruption charges."

Is there an inference being made?


Finally, Sean Morrison, the Cook County commissioner and county GOP chair. It turns out those aren't his only jobs (I don't know if the party job pays, just sayin'). He also has a business of his own, Morrison Security Corp. This distresses me more than his PPP funds; I'm not fond of "part-time" pols with full-time salaries and side jobs - or, more like, when their elected job is the side job to their real business.

Anyway, Morrison took about $610,000 in PPP money. Was that wrong?

"To many, many private-sector businesses, it's been a godsend," Morrison told WBEZ. "The whole purpose is to be able to keep people employed, which it's done. It's certainly done that."

He said the loan has saved "multiple dozens of people" who work for him from losing their jobs and going on unemployment.

The real reporting work is ahead of us - finding out if that's true. (Also, you'd think he'd know the exact number of people who's jobs have been saved by the PPP funds he procured, but, for now, whatever.)

"Morrison publicly weighed in to defend Trump in his verbal battles with Lightfoot and Democratic Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker."

Is that an inference?


The Tribune's account is even-handed; they play the list of well-known names on the PPP list as a curiosity - without trying to manufacture outrage - and even indicative of a bigger picture:

"The list is notable for its breadth and diversity, emblematic of the widespread economic devastation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic and the statewide stay-at-home orders that have disrupted business since March."


The Sun-Times noted which zip codes got the most PPP funds (60062, which encompasses most of Northbrook, though that total could be disproportionately one or a few big corporations located there), as well as the top bank (Chase) facilitating the loans (and taking in generous servicing fees from the government).


The Sun-Times also notes:

"Atlas Financial Holdings is incorporated in the Cayman Islands, a tax haven. The company, with its executives based in Schaumburg, got a $4,600,500 loan from Fifth Third Bank to cover 286 employees in various locations."

That bears further reporting.


The Sun-Times also found about 475 religious institutions in Illinois that took in at least $475 million in PPP funds - their Paycheck Protection Prayers were answered!

"Some of the groups getting the loans provide social services or operate community centers; the list also includes houses of worship of a variety of religions. Another 170 operators of religious schools were awarded at least $70 million more."

See also: Trump Administration's Church Bailouts Cost Taxpayers $6 Billion - $10 Billion.

And I'm not saying religious organizations should have been ineligible; they have payrolls too. But look, the whole thing should probably have been more tightly run to make sure this isn't an area of abuse. Then again, pushing money out the door in a hurry through a somewhat improvised program was the priority. It's just glaring who didn't get the money, and that needs to be remedied - pronto.


And yes, it feels kind of icky to see the media organizations who took money, as well as brand-name museums and cultural institutions. But should it? Perhaps we pause and stumble here and on other familiar names we see on these lists because under normal conditions, this would seem like a massive giveaway to folks whom we somehow want to see earn their keep on their own. But the Trib is right when it says that "The list is notable for its breadth and diversity, emblematic of the widespread economic devastation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic." We're just still having a hard time getting our heads around the gravity of what has happened.


On the other hand, maybe the feds should dole this money out every year!


False Inference
Rich Miller also notes that while Michael Madigan's name appears on the PPP data released Tuesday, a spokesperson says he didn't take any money.

"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."


On that score, I might as well add this:


The Rest Of The Story: Lightfoot vs. Trump & The Trib Edit Board


New on the Beachwood today . . .

The Racial Mortgage Gap
"The gap is widest in Milwaukee, San Francisco, Detroit, Chicago and St. Louis, where denial rates for Black homebuyers are more than 10 percentage points higher than they are for white homebuyers. In Milwaukee and San Francisco, specifically, Black loan seekers are more than three times as likely to be denied a mortgage."


The Slave Who Escaped George Washington
"When George Washington was elected president, he reluctantly left behind his beloved Mount Vernon to serve in Philadelphia, the temporary seat of the nation's capital. In setting up his household he brought along nine slaves, including Ona Judge. As the president grew accustomed to Northern ways, there was one change he couldn't abide: Pennsylvania law required enslaved people be set free after six months of residency in the state. Rather than comply, Washington decided to circumvent the law. Every six months he sent the slaves back down south just as the clock was about to expire.

"Though Ona Judge lived a life of relative comfort, she was denied freedom. So, when the opportunity presented itself one clear and pleasant spring day in Philadelphia, Judge left everything she knew to escape to New England. Yet freedom would not come without its costs. At just 22-years-old, Ona became the subject of an intense manhunt led by George Washington, who used his political and personal contacts to recapture his property."


Play (COVID) Ball!
Let's bust out all the classics.


Chicago's Bad-Ass Buddha
The largest in the mainland United States is right here.



FYI: If you live near a Walgreens they will deliver your prescriptions to your house for free this month from r/chicago





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The Beachwood Yip Line: Yip it good.


Posted on July 8, 2020

MUSIC - Chief Keef Changed The Industry.
TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
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SPORTS - More McCaskey Malpractice.

BOOKS - All About Poop.


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