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In our two-tiered justice system, the DOJ shows no interest in prosecuting Florida Democrat Party

OPINION

BY LEN CABRERA

Anyone who has been paying attention since the position-previously-known-as-the-U.S.-Attorney-General was officially renamed the President’s Wingman knows that we’re living in a two-tiered justice system. Especially when it comes to white-collar crime, the main determinant of guilt, let alone whether an investigation is even opened, is the political affiliation of the accused.

A cynic will tell you that every new government spending program essentially exists to legalize grift for the politicians who vote on it (and for their friends and donors). Given the amount of money that was printed to justify the abuses we witnessed during the government’s COVID-19 response, it’s not surprising that a lot of shady things happened.

It’s like the fraud was part of the plan for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), created in March 2020. Soon after it was created, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced that the names of businesses and nonprofits that took PPP money would not be publicly identified; however, the information was eventually released under the Freedom of Information Act.

Fortune did a report listing all the members of Congress who were connected to companies that received PPP loans. Open Secrets did the same thing for political donors. After guidance was released in late April 2020 stating that the loans were not intended for companies with access to equity markets, some large companies returned the funds and Mnuchin warned of criminal penalties. What we’re learning now is that those penalties only applied if the right (wrong) political party did it.

According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Florida, former State Representative Joseph Harding pled guilty to “wire fraud, money laundering, and making false statements in connection with COVID-19 relief fraud.” It’s unsurprising that similar charges have not been filed against the Florida Democratic Party (FDP), which also appears to have fraudulently taken PPP funds.

As early as July 2020, several media outlets reported that the FDP took and returned PPP funds. Here are stories about it from Politico and Florida Politics. In October 2020, U.S. Representative Michael Waltz (R-FL) sent a letter to the Small Business Administration Inspector General (SBA IG) asking for an investigation of the FDP’s loan, a referral for criminal prosecution if warranted, and a briefing to detail any findings.

Earlier this month, I reached out to the SBA IG’s office, asking if a report was ever given to Waltz. Here’s the response:

IG Ware responded to the letter from Congressman Waltz on October 14, 2020. There was no briefing provided since we don’t provide updates on ongoing investigations.

Over two years and they’re still investigating? Sure.

I also reached out to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Florida, for comment. They have not responded.

I’m no expert investigator, but here’s what I found in a few hours of research.

The FDP took a PPP loan of $780,000 through the FDP Building Fund (FDPBF), a separate non-profit corporation created in 2019 to “construct, own, &/or operate a building &/or condominium unit to house the headquarters of the state Executive Committee of the Florida Democratic Party and related political organizations.” You can see the loan amount here by typing “Florida Democratic Party” in the “Company Name” search box. Below is the result.

Note that it shows 100 jobs saved in the “Public Relations Agencies” industry. That’s a stretch. According to Rep. Waltz’s letter, the FDPBF had zero employees at the time of the loan application. I could not verify the number of jobs because the FDPBF was dissolved in September 2022.

Once the FDPBF had the $780,000, the money was transferred in chunks of various sizes to the Democratic Executive Committee of Florida (i.e., the FDP), which did not properly report the source of the money to the Federal Election Commission. If you search the FDP’s filing with the FEC, you’ll find multiple transactions from “CARES” to the DEC of Florida on multiple dates, totaling $780,000. (Click on “Browse receipts” and enter “CARES” for “Name or ID”)

Note that “CARES” is not registered with the FEC and has no FEC ID number. The address listed for “CARES” by the FDP in the report is 409 3rd St SW, Washington, D.C. 20416-0011. That’s the address for the Small Business Administration. But the FDP got the funds from the FDPBF, not from the SBA, because political parties were specifically prohibited from taking PPP loans.

Once the PPP loan recipients were made public in July 2020, the FDP promptly repaid the money with minimal interest (0.225%) to Hancock Whitney Bank in Gulfport, MS. You can see the transactions by looking at the FDP’s filing with the FEC (Click on “Browse disbursements” and enter “Hancock Whitney ” for “Recipient Name or ID”)

The total amount repaid was $781,755. The FDP’s actions appear to mirror Harding’s crimes: wire fraud, money laundering, and making false statements. Like Harding, the FDP made a fraudulent PPP application in the name of a different company and conducted transactions over $10,000 using fraudulently-obtained funds. Like the FDP, Harding says that he returned the funds.

On top of those questionable actions, the Party, which claims to represent working people, actually took money out of a program that was intended to save the jobs of Floridians. Given the statistics that the average PPP loan in Florida was $50,907 for a company with 6 employees, the FDP potentially prevented 15 companies from getting loans before the money ran out, which may have cost 90 jobs in Florida. Even though the FDP returned the funds, it may have been too late for those businesses.

The FDP is likely safe from prosecution as long as the Department of Justice continues to be politicized and under the control of Attorney General Merrick Garland. However, I would argue that if Harding’s crime is worthy of federal prosecution, surely FDP’s is, too.

If we really had a “government of the people, by the people, and for the people” and the rule of law still existed, then our newly bloated IRS would be auditing every current and former elected official, from the smallest city to the halls of Congress, regardless of political party, and DOJ would be examining all misuses of COVID relief funds. Instead, federal agencies are now just weapons to target political enemies in our two-tiered justice system.

  • Blah Blah more red meat for the idiots 🙄.. Hillbilly weekly Is really stretching 4 this one.. two tier system when it comes to Black n Brown justice ⚖️ as well.. white grievance is the GOP..

    • I love a cheeseburgers…we need food sovereignty if you’re trying to
      Allude to the slaughterhouse we need. I ain’t gonna eat Bill Gates lab grown meat from cancer cells used to produce Covid Vax. I ain’t gonna eat crickets or drink nutritious roach milk either…no soilent green from me you progressive social commie Marxists!

    • Blah blah. Always blaming the white man for your race’s criminal habits. The Democrats have been holding blacks and browns down by the neck for years. And the stupid thing is you actually believe them when t hff em say we are helping you. They are helping you right into self oppression, period. Justice should mean no matter who you are if you charged with a crime you are innocent until proven guilty. Not guilty by political affiliation as the Democrats in Florida and the rest of country would want you to think. Wake the hell up and think yourself and stop letting people tell you that you are inferior because of the color of your skin, religion, or background.

  • Career politicians are considered a needed industry by Dems. Because they cannot hold other jobs legally in the real world. They get fired or start their coping addictions, become homeless.

  • It takes time for these investigations. Just look how long it’s taken with Trump. And Gillum. And I’m sure these improper donations to DeSantis will also take awhile.

    • Well, Gillum was easy because he got caught doing meth naked with a male stripper in a Miami Beach Hotel Room. The stuff about Trump & Desantis is just BS from progressive dem social Marxist haters who want to destroy the USA & constitution. The Marxists want you to wear face diapers and get clot shot & Vax passports. They’ll soon be rioting and looting like in France right now when the government reduces their pensions and have to work longer…they got garbage strike and union problems there now…

  • You got the “I’m no expert investigator” part right.

  • anytime a govt program is created you can assume there will be fraud, grift, & corruption. just another day in washington!

  • Locally, I think the DOJ should investigate Hanrahan’s GRU’s biomass plant & that 30 year purchase agreement that
    Bankrupted the city & GRU…didn’t she
    Get some consulting fees touting for biomass? Where did those billion of dollars go? It didn’t stay in our local community…it went to out of town investors. Democrat leadership has been a disaster here in GNV…”In our two-tiered justice system, the DOJ has no interest in prosecuting the democrat party.”

    • A theft of a billion $ in broad daylight with public meetings…
      Ruining our utility was criminal…
      Follow the money…I want a refund for the “deal of century” purchase of the overpriced piece of crap that should never have been built in the first place…Hanrahan & co should be in prison for ruining GRU and putting us in debt. Democrat leadership has been a disaster….go woke, go broke.

    • Now that Covid is over, Corrine Brown should have to finish out her sentence…did they ever rename that bus transfer station that was named after her or is the GNV CC in a stalemate on that like the vagrants & open container?

    • Lou: the people of color are suffering the most from GRU electric bills…the raising of fire fees and property taxes suggested by the GNV CC is going to be transferred to the tenants and those on affordable housing…the unintended consequences of
      Local democrat government intervention….high rents and high utility bills! Tallahassee needs to appoint new commissioners, they can leave Ed Book and they need a
      GRU utility authority now to fix dem leadership that ruined GRU.

  • Democrat, Republican;White, Black; Male, Female: if you break the law, and your conduct merits it, you should be prosecuted. That being said, this opinion piece is misleading. Yeah, Harding returned the fruits of his ill-conceived grift. AFTER HE WAS INDICTED BY A FEDERAL GRAND JURY–the bank robber handing over the money bag as the cops nab him. He fabricated effectively non-existent businesses to steal. To compare his conduct to what’s described of the FDP above is–at best–misleading. Partisan publications like this one, on the small scale, and like CNN and Fox News, on the large scale, are a big part of the problem. Take off your red tinted glasses, Len.

  • Len, we’ve had a two tier system of justice since Washington got false teeth.
    As for “by the people & for the people,” a campaign promise that was broken like all the others politicians make just to get elected.

  • Well presented, Len.

    It may be optimistic to suggest the justice system is ‘two-tiered.’

    There appears to be a different sense and application of ‘justice’ by anyone wishing to manipulate it to a desired result.

    Government prosecutorial restraint when investigating politicians and their respective parties was once a high-wire act without a net
    unless the target was standing naked holding a smoking gun over a dead body smiling into a surveillance camera.

    The DOJ is now politically weaponized in the archetype maintained, unfettered, by J. Edgar Hoover for decades.

    Yes, a case against the FDP must first be presented to a prosecutor to be processed under ‘justice’ procedure. The problem is it cannot run through the politicized filters of reporting agencies, investigators, and prosecutors to reach a point where ‘the people’ have their days in court.

    The Florida media should not be given a pass on this either. When has, for example, the local Gainesville press mentioned the saga of former governor candidate Andrew Gillum? Jeff Burlew, writing for the online Tallahassee Democrat, had a headline “Andrew Gillum wants to block Lil Wayne concert testimony, wiretapped bribery talks from trial” which topped a story about the trial of corruption at the street level of the FDP.

    DOJ did nothing, while having credible evidence against him, to slow Gillum’s rise to the Democratic Party’s candidate for governor and narrowly lost.

    That near miss consequence should have woken [sic] Democrats to vet themselves, their strategies, and candidates with far more care. Since there are no consequences in justice unless found standing stark naked….., re-directing government handouts is rationalized as a perverse, justified, reparation.

    Most thieves claim that.

  • It’s definitely two-tiered… there’s justice for ‘us’ people and there’s justice for ‘you’ people.

    It just depends on who’s administering the justice. Always has been, always will be.

  • From the linked Politico story:

    “…As Republicans lobbed bombs at the party, Florida Democratic lawmakers were outraged as well, stung by the decision and their own potential political exposure. The party is currently underwriting the salaries of campaign staff throughout Florida, including those working to elect Joe Biden, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, in the nation’s biggest battleground state.

    In a stern conversation on Wednesday with Rizzo, Rep. Donna Shalala (D-Fla.) demanded that the party return the money and told the chairwoman she wouldn’t participate in a Friday news conference to push back on President Donald Trump’s proposed visit to her hometown of Miami, two sources familiar with the conversation told POLITICO.

    Two Democratic state senators, Jason Pizzo and Annette Taddeo, took to Twitter to assail the party’s decision, along with state Rep. Anna Eskamani. Pizzo said he alerted Biden’s daughter Ashley Biden to the problem.

    “Forget the legality for just a second and consider what should have been a huge ethical dilemma,” Pizzo said. “They are taking financial resources from someone who might have food or housing insecurity in the middle of a pandemic. I don’t know who possibly thought that was a good idea.”

    The Florida Democratic Party late Wednesday issued a statement that acknowledged the mistake.

    “Congress passed the Paycheck Protection Plan to support employers and their efforts to provide funds to keep people working — and like many employers during the shutdown, FDP was concerned about meeting payroll and keeping our staff employed, so we applied,” the statement said. “The bank, the loan processor and agents of the Small Business Association approved the funding. It now seems they made a mistake in approving the funding so we are volunteering to return it. As a Democratic Party we are entering this election stronger than ever, with a growing staff and a commitment to electing a President that will address this crisis, rebuild our economy and heal the nation. That President is Joe Biden.”..”

    • There’s been 3 years and there hasn’t been any “healing.”
      Rome wasn’t built in a day but it had more to show for it than Joe Biden dies.

    • May be entering stronger but there’s no question the nation is definitely much poorer.

      • GDP growth this month at 2.6% annually. Trump’s last year was – 2.8%. Look it up.

  • Closer to home, perhaps the author can look into why the dirty money/stealth candidate campaigns of both Sen Perry and Rep Clemons, when they ran and barely won against Dr Enneking, have not been taken up our DA Kramer or even more appropriately, the Governor’s election police force. Both who have been picking on small fish felons who were told it was legal for them to vote by the supervisor of elections office, only to find out it wasn’t.

    It seems that when the GOP state legislature sought to blunt the overwhelmingly approved Constitutional amendment granting felons the right to vote after serving their time, they insisted all fine sand fees by paid, yet chose to not provide an information clearing house, so said felons – most them not well off – could find out what exactly they do owe. Nice trick there used to completely thwart the will of the voters who approved the amendment!

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