Democratic campaign consultants have received millions in federal coronavirus relief funds even as they’ve taken in a windfall of fees from Democratic candidates and committees, according to government records released on Monday.
Multiple firms working with Joe Biden's campaign—including Anzalone Research Inc. and Blue Wave Political Partners—received substantial loans from the Trump administration’s Paycheck Protection Program.
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Greenberg, Quinlan, Rosner (GQR), a political research firm founded by Bill Clinton’s longtime pollster Stanley Greenberg, also benefited from the PPP loan program while taking in millions from Democratic clients, according to Federal Election Commission records.
These companies applied for loans despite the fact that 2020 is a presidential election year, a time that tends to be lucrative for the political consulting industry. All but one of these firms brought in significantly more campaign-related income in the 2020 election cycle than in the 2018 cycle, FEC reports show.
Ethics watchdogs criticized the money-grab by campaign consultants, noting that the program was intended to benefit small companies that are struggling from the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.
"We knew this would happen as programs like PPP tend to benefit well-connected individuals and firms, leaving the neediest scrambling for the scraps connected firms left behind," said Tom Anderson, director of the National Legal and Policy Center’s Government Integrity Project.
Anzalone Research received between $350,000 and $1 million in PPP loans in April, while Belardi Wong ALC and Chapman, Cubine, and Hussey Inc. each took in between $1 million and $2 million. Anzalone Research and Belardi Wong have both been paid over $400,000 by the Biden campaign, according to FEC records. Chapman, Cubine, and Hussey has been paid over $1.7 million by Biden.
FEC records show all three firms earned more from campaign work in the current election cycle than in the 2018 cycle. Anzalone Research was paid $2.8 million between January 2019 and May 2020, a slight increase from $2.3 million during the same time period in 2017 and 2018. Belardi Wong earned $866,000 from 2020 campaign spending, nearly 10 times as much as the prior cycle. Chapman, Cubine, and Hussey’s campaign income more than quadrupled, from $1.4 million to $6.3 million.
Seattle-based Blue Wave Political Partners and the D.C.-based Resonance Campaigns LLC each received between $150,000 and $350,000 in PPP loans. The Biden campaign has paid Blue Wave more than $150,000 and has paid Resonance over $1.1 million.
FEC records show that Blue Wave’s campaign income spiked from $1.4 million the last cycle to $2.6 million in 2020. Resonance was the only firm analyzed by the Washington Free Beacon whose earnings dipped slightly, from $2.2 million to $2.1 million.
GQR, the political research firm founded by Clinton’s longtime pollster, received between $350,000 and $1 million this spring from the government loan program. The firm has taken in nearly $4 million from Democratic candidates and committees between Jan. 10 and June 2, according to FEC records.
Disclosures show that the firm’s top clients included the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Arizona Senate candidate Mark Kelly, Colorado Senate candidate John Hickenlooper, EMILY’s List, and the End Citizens United PAC.
GQR raked in over $250,000 in polling, research, and consulting fees in the month of April, the same period that they are reported to have received the PPP loan. These clients included the Women Vote! PAC, the DNC, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and Rep. Andy Kim (D., N.J.).
GQR also saw an uptick in its campaign income, earning $3.9 million in 2020 compared with $2.7 million in 2018.
Belardi Wong spokesperson Alex Wolf said the firm "did apply for and receive PPP funds, but that’s related to the downturn in demand for consumer goods and its impact on their business."
Wolf said political work represents just a fraction of the company’s business. FEC records show Belardi Wong has worked with several Democratic candidates and committees this cycle, primarily on direct mail and list rental.
"Belardi Wong's work for the Biden campaign will represent less than 1 percent of its total revenue this year," said Wolf. "The other 99 percent of Belardi Wong's work is in customer acquisition and direct mail for consumer brands—most of them in high end fashion and home goods."
None of the other firms did not respond to requests for comment.