Maine Senate candidate Sara Gideon's husband directly benefited from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) even as the Democrat railed against Sen. Susan Collins (R., Maine) for supporting the small business relief fund.
Gideon, who serves as the state House speaker, has frequently criticized the PPP in the last few months, accusing Collins of creating a fund that bails out large corporations but abandons small businesses. What Gideon did not say in her PPP attack ads—one of which earned three out of four Pinocchios from fact-checkers—was that her husband's law firm received between $1 to $2 million in financial assistance from the fund.
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Berman & Simmons, a personal injury law firm, cashed in on the PPP loans on April 6, according to federal data released by the Small Business Administration on Monday. Benjamin Gideon, husband to Sara Gideon, benefited from the program—he serves as a partner at the law firm and owns a $250,000 to $500,000 stake in it, according to Senate disclosures. The firm did not respond to requests for comment.
The lawyers at Berman & Simmons are major donors to Gideon, contributing more than $33,000 in total to her campaign during the 2020 election cycle. Managing director Craig Bramley sent $5,600 to the campaign, while Jack Simmons, the namesake for the firm, gave $2,800.
Berman & Simmons also appears to be capitalizing on the pandemic, saying in a May blog post that the firm is "ready to investigate and pursue" coronavirus cases against veterans' homes, which were disproportionately affected by the outbreak. The Washington Examiner reported, however, that Sara Gideon has failed to support bills in the state House that would have appropriated additional funding for veterans' homes.
Congress created PPP to assist small businesses struggling amid coronavirus lockdowns. The program offers applicants low-interest loans that will be forgiven if the business uses them to retain workers. The fund has doled out more than $520 billion, saving millions of jobs across the country. The program has faced criticism for its rocky rollout, however, during which big corporations rushed to collect billions of dollars in financial assistance, temporarily exhausting taxpayer funds before many small businesses could apply.
The Gideon campaign has attacked Collins for her role in creating the program. In a June attack ad, the campaign falsely accused Collins of creating "special loopholes" for campaign donors in the hospitality industry. The Washington Post criticized the ad for being "highly misleading," since the alleged "loophole" was a bipartisan policy that offered assistance to the franchisees—small business owners who operate under the corporate umbrella of large hotel chains.
Gideon, who is expected to win her primary election on July 14, is neck-and-neck with Collins, according to recent polls. A July 2 survey found that Collins leads Gideon by 8 points, but another poll released on Monday found that Gideon enjoys a 4-point edge over the incumbent.
Gideon's campaign did not respond to a request for comment.