KXAN Austin

Texas congressional campaign received $28,000 loan designed for small businesses struggling during the pandemic

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The political committee of Dr. Christine Mann, a candidate in the Democratic primary runoff for Texas’ 31st Congressional District, received a $28,000 loan through a federal program designed to help struggling small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Christine Mann for Congress received a $28,000 loan from First Bank Texas on May 5, according to pre-runoff campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. The line item is labeled “Payment Protection Program,” though the program through the Small Business Administration is called the “Paycheck Protection Program.”

On its website, the Small Business Administration says the PPP loan “helps businesses keep their workforce employed during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.” Funding for the program was drained in the first weeks after its launch but an additional appropriation by Congress has left $132 billion unclaimed, according to the U.S. Treasury Department.

The filing deadline for PPP has been extended until Aug. 8.

“As a grassroots campaign and like many other small businesses, we were hit financially during the pandemic,” a spokesperson for Mann’s campaign said. “As a front-line doctor testing patients during COVID-19, Dr. Mann did not fundraise the ways she had previously but wanted to ensure her staff continued to receive a livable wage.”

Mann’s campaign said accountants and the FEC were consulted about the PPP loan, with no objections. The loan was paid back by the campaign the following month.

The Ohio Democratic Party received a PPP loan for $333,867 and the Tennessee Democratic Party received a PPP loan for $5,000, according to FEC records. Brendan Fischer, director of the Campaign Legal Center’s Federal Reform Program, said Mann’s political committee appears to be one of the first, if not the first, to directly receive a PPP loan.

“It’s not necessarily unlawful but it’s perhaps politically inadvisable,” Fischer said. “Part of the reason we haven’t seen more campaigns take out these PPP loans is because the campaigns knew that the loan would have to be disclosed on their FEC reports and it’s not a good look.”

An FEC spokesperson said the agency could not comment on any specific matter but said: “An authorized campaign committee of a federal candidate is permitted to receive loans from the candidate as well as other permissible sources such as lending institutions.”

Mann is running against Donna Imam in the Democratic primary runoff for Texas’ 31st Congressional District, vying to face Rep. John Carter in the general election. Early voting is already underway with election day slated for July 14.

Imam responded to the new reporting with a statement:

“Many small businesses in my district have been forced to close down permanently due to the pandemic. When I reached out to family owned restaurants in Killeen, they were completely unaware of the Paycheck Protection Program. When many of these minority owned businesses tried to get help, they were told by their banks that the money had run out.”

Donna Imam, (D) Texas Congressional District 31 candidate

Mann’s two political campaigns, Christine Mann for Congress and ChristineMann4Congress, raised more than $350,000 in this campaign cycle, according to federal campaign finance records.

On behalf of Rep. John Carter (R-TX 31), the National Republican Congressional Committee said: “Mann taking this loan is a slap in the face to all those struggling during this pandemic.”

KXAN reached out to the Small Business Administration on several occasions for this story but did not receive a response.