Progressive Firm Linked to AOC, Shaun King Took Hundreds of Thousands in PPP Cash

Middle Seat Consulting received between $350K and $1M worth of small business loans

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) / via Getty Images
July 7, 2020

A progressive political consulting firm that receives large payments from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's (D., N.Y.) reelection campaign and activist Shaun King's PAC raked in hundreds of thousands in taxpayer money meant to help small businesses.

New data show that between $350,000 and $1 million flowed from the Paycheck Protection Program, a federal program created to help small businesses cope with the economic downturn caused by coronavirus, to Middle Seat Consulting, a Washington, D.C.-based digital firm that provides services to far-left Democrats. Just 13.5 percent of companies received more than $150,000 from the PPP program, putting Middle Seat among the upper echelon of recipients.

The liberal consulting firm applied for and took the loan despite already receiving large sums from Ocasio-Cortez's campaign, King's Real Justice PAC, and other liberal groups. Middle Seat has raised more than $9 million from other left-wing committees this election cycle. Its receipt of up to $1 million in taxpayer cash could raise concerns among political watchdogs that the firm—along with other liberal activist groups, legal firms, and companies linked to Democratic politicians—took government loans that could instead have gone to struggling small businesses.

The consulting firm is Ocasio-Cortez's top 2020 campaign vendor. So far this cycle, the Democrat's campaign committee has dished out more than $875,000 to Middle Seat for email lists, ad commission, and consulting, Federal Election Commission records show.

King's Real Justice PAC, which works to elect far-left district attorney candidates, has provided more than $270,000 to the group. During the 2018 cycle, Real Justice paid another $354,000 to Middle Seat, which was cofounded by one of the PAC's original leaders.

Justice Democrats, the progressive group that propelled Ocasio-Cortez into office, has also paid Middle Seat six-figure sums. Justice Democrats PAC has paid Middle Seat $540,000 this election cycle for digital advertising and fundraising consulting. The group was started by another Middle Seat cofounder, Zack Exley, among others.

Middle Seat was created by former members of Sen. Bernie Sanders's (I., Vt.) 2016 presidential campaign to back efforts dealing with "racial justice, climate action, immigrant rights, intersectional feminism, economic justice, and more."

Middle Seat did not respond to a request for comment on the PPP loan.