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Senators push for DOJ probe of Planned Parenthood stimulus loans

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., walks to his office at the U.S. Capitol on May 21, 2020 in Washington.

STEFANI REYNOLDS/CNP/ABACA PRESS/TNS

By MARK NIQUETTE AND BEN BRODY | Bloomberg News | Published: May 22, 2020

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WASHINGTON (Tribune News Service) — A group of Republican senators are calling on the Justice Department to investigate Planned Parenthood affiliates that got coronavirus relief loans even though they weren't eligible, according to the lawmakers.

The 27 senators, including Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, asked Attorney General William Barr in a letter Thursday to open a probe, citing a Fox News report that at least 37 Planned Parenthood affiliates in the U.S. applied for and received about $80 million in loans under the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses.

The Planned Parenthood entities certified on loan applications that they were eligible when they knew they weren't, the senators said. They cited language in the bill enacted in March creating the program and an implementing rule, as well as a statement at the time from Planned Parenthood Action Fund complaining that the bill gave the Trump administration broad discretion to exclude Planned Parenthood affiliates.

"The funds in the program are not unlimited, and were depleted once already because of high demand," the senators wrote. "Planned Parenthood fraudulently taking tens of millions of dollars that were intended to help keep those small businesses and nonprofit organizations afloat cannot stand and must be addressed."

Planned Parenthood didn't immediately respond to emailed and voice messages seeking comment. The group, which says its affiliates operate more than 600 health centers nationwide, is a frequent target for Republicans because it provides abortion services.

The Justice Department has received and is reviewing the letter, spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said.

The PPP offers forgivable loans to small businesses of 500 employees and fewer or businesses that meet the Small Business Administration's size standards for industries. The law allowed an exception for hotel and restaurant chains as long as each physical location had fewer than 500 employees.

Several industries, particularly in travel, have sought to expand which kinds of nonprofits can qualify, and the House has passed a bill that would allow trade associations, chambers would impose imposes limits on how they can engage in political spending or count their lobbyists as needing funds.

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