Columns » Hightower

Opinion: CEOs at the trough

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Corporate porkers ate their fill of emergency Paycheck Protection Program funds. - SONSEDSKA YULIIA / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • Sonsedska Yuliia / Shutterstock.com
  • Corporate porkers ate their fill of emergency Paycheck Protection Program funds.

There’s a general sentiment today that multimillionaire corporate chieftains are pigs. But I think that’s unfair. To pigs. Those oinkers are remarkably intelligent animals with a sense of social responsibility to the common good of the group. Compare that ethic to the self-entitlement expressed by pompous and petulant corporate executives like hotel magnate Monty Bennett.
Bennett was just another faceless right-wing millionaire on the long list of high-dollar donors to Donald Trump — until he suddenly surfaced in April as the nation’s biggest bagger of government cash in the emergency Paycheck Protection Program.

The deal was so stinky that even the thievish Trumpistas made him return the money. Yet, a shameless Bennett continues to insist that he deserves a government bailout: “What are all those taxes we paid supposed to provide us with, anyway,” he whined?

Bennett got $76 million from the fund meant to help small businesses keep people employed during today’s COVID-19 economic shutdown. But wait — there’s nothing mom and popish about Monty’s business. Operating through a maze of tightly interwoven financial trusts and corporate subsidiaries, he runs a sprawling Dallas-based conglomerate named Ashford Inc. that owns and operates 130 hotels and luxury resorts all across the country, including the Marriott Beverly Hills and the Ritz-Carlton in the Virgin Islands.

How does a multibillion-dollar empire get such payments while legitimate small businesses are shut out? The old-fashioned way: By paying lobbyists and lawmakers to rig the rules to let corporate thieves raid the treasury. A major donor to Trump and GOP Congress critters, Bennett pressured them to punch a special interest loophole in the program, decreeing that while a big business cannot apply for payments, each unit of a big business can.

So… gotcha! In early April, before most of America’s Main Street enterprises even knew relief was available, Ashford Inc.’s squad of manipulators were running all-night sessions for each of the hotels it owns, getting them to rush out “individual” applications. This twisting of the PPP fund made the slick hotelier King of Bailout Hill, having scooped up 339 times more than the average applicant received.



In addition to stiffing small businesses, Bennett balked at the requirement that the bulk of taxpayer dollars be used to maintain the paychecks of Ashford’s hotel employees. Instead, he loudly insisted that government aid should be available to bolster corporate owners — i.e., him.

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