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A well-connected Washington, D.C.-area private school where the Clintons and the Obamas sent their children during their presidential tenures won’t return a large coronavirus relief loan despite the fact that it doesn’t need the money.
Sidwell Friends School, a Quaker-affiliated private institution known for enrolling the children of top lawmakers, has a $50 million endowment and a large building project underway, but that didn’t stop wealthy board members from accepting a $5.2 million loan under the Paycheck Protection Program, “Congress’s bailout fund for small businesses affected by the coronavirus crisis,” the Washington Free Beacon reported.
Despite the fact that the school takes in some $40 million in annual tuition, the board refused to return the loan even after Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin pressed “private schools with significant endowments” to “return” PPP money.
In a letter to the D.C. community, the school’s board of trustees cited “fiduciary responsibilities” as well as “our Quaker values” in making the decision to keep money that Congress clearly did not intend to go to such institutions.
The ‘Quaker values’ claim especially rankled critics, by the way.
The Free Beacon noted:
In so doing, Sidwell Friends joins the ranks of other large, well-funded entities that have benefited from a program designed to protect America’s collapsing small businesses. Some, like Shake Shack or news site Axios, have returned their loans following public outcry. The school, which enjoys connections to D.C.’s Democratic establishment, has faced some scrutiny for its decision to keep the money—but appears unlikely to back down.
The school says the loan — one of the largest in the second wave of PPP funds — will be used to pay its 257 staff and faculty.
According to data from the Small Business Administration, of the 2.2 million loans the agency issued since April 27, less than 1,500 of them, or about 0.07 percent, were larger than $5 million.
The Department of the Treasury has said that companies are required to consider “current business activity” as well as their “ability to access other sources of liquidity” before attesting that they actually need PPP money.
The Free Beacon notes that Sidwell Friends appears to be very well-connected to the D.C. elite, judging by its board. They include Marla Beck, who sold her cosmetics chain, Bluemercury, to Macy’s for $210 million; the co-founder of American Management Systems Inc., Patrick Gross, whose firm is valued at $1 billion; and Mark Jacobsen, CEO of Promontory Interfinancial Network, a provider of financial services to half the banks in the U.S. and which previously sold for $2.5 billion.
And again, the Clintons and Obamas sent their kids there: Chelsea Clinton graduated in 1997, while Malia Obama graduated in 2016 and Sasha Obama graduated in 2019.
“Those connections are reflected on its board, which includes Marty Franks—a former CBS vice president who spent 15 years in Democratic politics, including as executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, as staff in the Carter White House, and as chief of staff for Sen. Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.),” the Free Beacon reported. “Another board member, Judy Brown, was a White House fellow in the Carter-era Department of Labor.”
Sidwell Friends now joins other wealthy businesses and institutions including Harvard University, food chains Shake Shack and Ruth’s Chris, and news site Axios, to take PPP loans intended for small businesses.
There’s also a high degree of hypocrisy associated with Sidwell Friends and its Democratic benefactors. While the Clintons, Obamas, and other Democrats have sent their kids to swanky private schools, they have publicly opposed school choice for ordinary Americans.
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