North Carolina Democratic Senate nominee Cal Cunningham falsely claimed he cut ties with his waste management company before it applied for up to $2 million in taxpayer-funded coronavirus relief.
After a Washington Free Beacon report revealed that Cunningham's company, WasteZero, obtained between $1 and $2 million in Paycheck Protection Program funds, the North Carolina Democrat claimed he wasn't working at the company "at the time they applied for the loan." He accused incumbent senator Thom Tillis (R., N.C.) and his "allies" of "distorting the facts" and launching a "pathetic attempt to mislead voters."
However, Cunningham on Thursday admitted that he was "aware" of WasteZero's PPP loan application, telling the Charlotte Observer that he is "still available to do occasional hourly work" at the company. While Cunningham previously said he left the company on March 20—a week before the loan program was enacted on March 27—he signed the company's 2019 annual report on March 31.
State GOP spokesman Tim Wigginton accused Cunningham of misleading North Carolina voters and called the Democrat unworthy of office. "Cunningham's initial instinct to deceive North Carolina voters shows why he's unfit for the U.S. Senate," Wigginton told the Free Beacon.
Cunningham did not respond to a request for comment.
Cunningham has repeatedly criticized the PPP, which aims to support struggling small businesses during coronavirus shutdowns. "For PPP loans to have ‘generally missed the industries and areas most heavily impacted by COVID-19' is unacceptable," he said in a June tweet. "Leaving behind small businesses—and disproportionately those that are Black and Latino-owned—harms communities."
WasteZero obtained the PPP funding on May 3 and claimed to retain 115 jobs through the loan. The waste elimination industry was deemed essential under North Carolina's shutdown order.
Cunningham joined WasteZero as vice president of government affairs and general counsel in 2013 and took home roughly $400,000 from the role in 2019. His lucrative legal career has helped propel his Senate bid—Cunningham loaned his campaign $200,000 before becoming the Democratic nominee in March. He will face Tillis in November.
Correction 7/12/2020 12:00 p.m.: This article was updated to reflect that Cunningham is not on retainer as WasteZero general counsel.