ACLJ Obtains FOIA Records Regarding Planned Parenthood Unlawfully Obtaining Millions of COVID Relief Dollars Meant for Small Businesses
In the devastating economic aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress passed the CARES Act, which included hundreds of billions of dollars for small businesses in the form of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans and aid.
This relief package specifically included language preventing Planned Parenthood and its regional affiliates from obtaining a single dime of these funds. Planned Parenthood, with more than 16,000 employees, clearly does not qualify for small business loans intended for businesses with less than 500 employees.
Yet somehow, at least 37 of Planned Parenthood’s 49 affiliates obtained a total of approximately $80 million from PPP taxpayer funds that were meant to go to small businesses.
Thirty-seven Planned Parenthood affiliates applied for and received a total of $80 million in loans from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), . . . and now the federal government wants the money back, saying the affiliates should have known they weren't eligible for the coronavirus stimulus payouts.
“Should have known” is an understatement. The language of the legislation deeming Planned Parenthood ineligible for these funds was a national news story and a point of negotiation between the House and Senate before the CARES Act passed.
When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi attempted to pad the original bill with funding for abortion, our team caught it and the language was stripped out. This helped ensure that the law passed by Congress was clear that affiliated groups with more than 500 employees – like Planned Parenthood – would be ineligible.
It would have been hard for even the abortion giant to miss. But somehow, Planned Parenthood circumvented the law again, and applied for those funds anyway in clear disregard for the law. This was no accident. It seems pretty clear there was bad intent here. The reality is that Planned Parenthood is exploiting this pandemic to pad its bottom line.
The ACLJ took action, submitting our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Small Business Administration (SBA), with the intention of determining whether Planned Parenthood fraudulently obtained these funds through the SBA – funds that it had no lawful right to obtain; and, how this contravention of Congress’ limitations occurred.
At the same time, Members of Congress took notice that the law they passed was not being followed. Senator Marco Rubio, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, released a statement demanding Planned Parenthood return the funds:
There is no ambiguity in the legislation that passed or public record around its passage that organizations such as Planned Parenthood . . . [are] not eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program.
Those funds must be returned immediately. Furthermore, the SBA should open an investigation into how these loans were made in clear violation of the applicable affiliation rules[;] and if Planned Parenthood, the banks, or staff at the SBA knowingly violated the law[,] all appropriate legal options should be pursued.
Senator Ben Sasse reiterated:
Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion business, tried to defraud taxpayers during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. The Paycheck Protection Program is supposed to be a lifeline for small businesses, not a slush fund for Big Abortion. The administration needs to reclaim that money and fire the bureaucrats who signed off on this scam.
As Senator Josh Hawley echoed his colleagues’ statements on Twitter:
“The money needs to be recovered and if anybody knowingly falsified applications, they need to be prosecuted.”
The bottom line is, did Planned Parenthood or its affiliates knowingly and willfully violate the law, defrauding American taxpayers, to get its hands on this money it knew it wasn’t actually qualified to receive? If that turns out to be the case, there needs to be a full investigation of complicit bureaucratic agents, banks, and Planned Parenthood’s own representatives. If unlawful actions were taken, if there was fraud, those responsible must be held accountable.
We recently received a record production in response to our FOIA that shows a disturbing trend. First, the SBA bureaucracy invoked several FOIA exemption provisions to withhold or redact certain pieces of information. The invocation of Exemption 5 is the most telling to us.
According to the SBA’s letter to the ACLJ:
SBA is withholding in full certain documents pursuant to FOIA Exemption 4. The documents being withheld in full include communications between SBA and certain pregnancy resource centers regarding their application and eligibility for PPP loans. Specifically, SBA is withholding 38 letters it sent to certain pregnancy resource centers and approximately 135 pages of email communications with those centers. Please note that it is SBA’s long-standing practice that it does not release information regarding the status of a loan application unless it has been approved. All approved loans under the CARES Act have been made publicly available on SBA’s website. (Emphasis added).
The SBA’s response letter and the documents we did receive allow us to draw several conclusions. First, the number of letters, 38 (“38 letters … sent to certain pregnancy resource centers”) cited in the response letter is suspiciously close to the 37 Planned Parenthood affiliates mentioned in the press reports. And it’s important to note that our FOIA request was specifically for records regarding Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers. Second, we know that Planned Parenthood affiliates did, in fact, apply for PPP funds. The emails obtained are the best evidence, even if you have to read between the lines, so to speak.
In one email we obtained, dated May 18, 2020, it is clear someone applied for a loan (and remember we only asked about Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers) and is asking for reconsideration:
Sent: Monday, May 18, 2020 11:45 AM
Please let me know what other documentation, if any, you need for reconsideration of our loan.
Thank you for your attention to this request.
Redacted , MA, JD
President & CEO
However, the next email in the same chain confirms what we suspected:
Sent: Monday, May 18, 2020 9:04 AM
To: 7a Questions <7aQuesti@sba.gov>
Subject: FW: PPP Loan
“Is Planned Parenthood Eligible for PPP program? I have seen conflicting views, and need this settled.
Any doubts about Planned Parenthood’s application for PPP funds is removed by this email from PPNNE:
Sent: Thursday, May 21, 2020 7:25 PM
Subject: PPP funds in new account
WARNING: External E-mail. Use caution if opening Links and Attachments.
Jennifer Meyer, CPA (she/her/hers)
Director of Finance
Planned Parenthood of Northern New England
These emails are not the only such email chain. An email’s subject line from “7a Questions” (the SBA help center for PPP applicants and banks) provides further evidence that Planned Parenthood affiliates applied for loans and were approved.
From: 7a Questions
To: Wileman, Linda
Subject: RE: Planned Parenthood Loan # -
Date: Wednesday, May 13, 2020 12:11:56 PM
[REDACTED]If you need anything else, feel free to contact us again.
For loan submission instructions and additional information, please visit our LGPC webpage here. For the current SOP 50 10 5(K), please click here. If you need assistance with SBAOne, please contact SBAOne staff at: firstname.lastname@example.org or (877) 245-6159 (call option 5).
Please note that any opinions expressed on loan eligibility in this email are being given limited to the information you have provided and could change if new information is contained in your loan submission package.
“For information on Disaster Assistance Loans for Small Businesses Impacted by Coronavirus (COVID-19), please CLICK HERE or
contact the SBA Disaster Assistance Division at 1-800-659-2955 (TTY: 1-800-877-8339) or email@example.com.”
7(a) Loan Guaranty Processing Center
U.S. Small Business Administration
(877) 475-2435 (toll free)
The subject line of a subsequent email chain from May 20, 2020, starting at 9:02 AM, shows that loans were actually given, even if eventually returned:
From: [SBA official]
To: Billimoria, Jimmy F. (Jim)
Cc: Kelly, Jennifer F.
Subject: RE: Deliberative and pre-decisional- Re: Vice PP returning PPP
Date: Wednesday, May 20, 2020 9:02:20 AM
Another email indicates a request to cancel two loans, but the SBA redacted who the loan recipients were:
To: Kucharski, Stephen W. <Stephen.Kucharski@sba.gov>; Zheng, Mike (Contractor) <Mike.Zheng@sba.gov>; McConville, Sheri M. <Sheri.Mcconville@sba.gov>
Subject: Please Cancel these two loans
Mike/Sheri --- .
We also learned from these records that Deep State SBA bureaucrats refused to do their job and follow the clear wording of the law by making a decision on Planned Parenthood affiliates’ eligibility. The SBA advice desk sent out this letter to a question from SunTrust:
From: 7a Questions <7aQuesti@sba.gov>
Sent: Monday, May 18, 2020 5:11 PM
Subject: RE: PPP Loan
“SBA cannot make a final determination on eligibility as these decisions are the responsibility of the applicant and the lender.
Based on the discussion below it appears the Applicant meets 501 (c) (3) criteria and if other eligibility criteria is met then the submission may be eligible.
For additional information on this question and other questions, please consult the Treasury's website is at https://home.treasury.gov/policyissues/cares/assistance-for-small-businesses, and SBA’s website is at Coronavirus (COVID-19): Small Business Guidance & Loan Resources”
This is particularly concerning in light of the fact that we obtained numerous communications from MAJOR financial institutions – including Sun Trust now Truist, Peoples, Seacoast Bank, BB&T now Truist, Zions Bancorporation, BOK Financial, and others – indicating that these banks were concerned about following the law and had received dubious Planned Parenthood applications.
The fact that, after all the media coverage and the careful wording of the law itself, SBA bureaucrats were actually responding that they would provide no help in following the law and that “SBA cannot make a final determination on eligibility” because this is the “responsibility of the applicant and the lender” is beyond disconcerting. It shows just how far the bureaucracy will go to protect the abortion industry even when the law is clear – turning a blind eye and refusing to help banks follow the law when they seek advice.
A copy of the entire set of records the ACLJ obtained from the SBA is available here at this link: SBA Records.
These are merely a few of the records that our FOIA has uncovered, showing that Planned Parenthood did apply for PPP funds, did get approval, and at least in some cases, actually returned the funds. At least a few affiliates of the company making millions from aborting hundreds of thousands of defenseless unborn babies had a crisis of conscience . . . when it realized it might have broken the law . . . and left a paper trail.
But the questions remain: Did Planned Parenthood affiliates commit fraud in doing so? Were all the loans returned? And how far did the bureaucracy go to protect the abortion giant?
Our legal team continues to review the records the SBA provided and is analyzing potential legal challenges concerning the SBA’s overzealous redactions and the email communications with the 38 Planned Parenthood abortion providers which the SBA withheld in full.
We must continue to fight to defund Planned Parenthood.
This article is co- written by ACLJ Senior Litigation Counsel John Monaghan.