The Pennsylvania Senate Republican nominee claims loans from the Paycheck Protection Program were a wasteful ‘blank check,’ despite owning stock in businesses that received them.
Pennsylvania Republican candidate Mehmet Oz has frequently criticized federal spending, and federal pandemic relief in particular, as wasteful and excessive. A review of his financial disclosures by the American Independent Foundation, however, reveals that he has millions of dollars’ worth of investments in hotels and other businesses that relied on those very relief funds.
Oz, who won the May primary for the Republican nomination, is running for the open seat of retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey. Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is his Democratic opponent in November’s election.
Oz has criticized President Joe Biden’s economic policies, and Fetterman’s support for some of them, throughout his campaign, although his criticisms don’t always stand up to scrutiny.
In an op-ed published in the Tribune-Democrat of Johnstown in June, Oz claimed both Biden’s and Fetterman’s policies are to blame for global economic challenges.
“The Joe Biden and John Fetterman agenda of massive spending and failure to address the resulting inflation and supply chain issues [has] left Pennsylvania families wondering if they can afford to sign their kids up for summer recreation activities,” he claimed, “and it has left Pennsylvania mothers worrying if they will be able to find baby formula to feed their infants who desperately need it.”
Oz tweeted on July 9, “Biden’s reckless spending has left millions of Americans in a financial crisis, and he has refused to pick up the pieces for months.”
Economists and independent analysts have found not only that policies put forth by Biden and other Democrats are not the sole reason for growing inflation or problems in the supply chain, but that such policies are likely to help combat them.
While he has offered limited specifics about economic policies he does support, Oz indicated that he backs retaining tax cuts enacted under former President Donald Trump that primarily benefited large corporations and also supports expanding such tax policies. He has expressed opposition to funding for federal programs that help low- or middle-income families, including the Inflation Reduction Act and the Affordable Care Act.
Oz has said he opposed a $40 billion Ukraine aid package that passed by a 86-11 margin in the Senate in May. He has also criticized the Paycheck Protection Program, the forgivable loan program that was enacted and implemented as part of the bipartisan COVID-19 pandemic relief bill enacted in 2020.
Responding to a question about the aid to Ukraine, Oz said during an interview on May 16 on the Real America’s Voice network: “We got to know where the money’s going. Can’t just write a blank check. Look what happened to the Paycheck Protection Program, where a good portion of that money is lost, never to be found. Let’s not throw our money away.”
A day later, on the Philadelphia talk radio show “Morning Answer with Chris Stigall,” Oz once again questioned the aid to Ukraine: “I’m not writing a blank check. We did that during the paycheck program for COVID, which sounded great, right, give people money because they can’t go to work. Well, a lot of it — we can’t even tell how much — was wasted, billions of dollars thrown away, and we have no idea. And I can tell you, having spoken to countless people on the front lines, they did not get the money.”
Billions of dollars in relief funds from the Paycheck Protection Program were reported stolen — but that was only 3% of the total allocated funds, according to the Secret Service. Otherwise, the program has been credited with successfully saving an estimated 2 million to 3 million jobs.
In fact, a sizable amount of PPP funding went to companies that Oz is an investor in. According to a personal financial disclosure statement filed in April 2022, Oz and his family owned millions of dollars’ worth of stock in companies that took forgivable loans through the PPP program. In all, those businesses have received more than $4 million in PPP funding.
Asplundh Tree Expert Co.
Oz reported family holdings between $11 million and $52 million in stock in the Asplundh Tree Expert Company. Kupper Engineering, a subsidiary business belonging to Asplundh, received $896,400 in PPP loans, according to a ProPublica database.
Our Body Electric
Oz and his wife reported between $500,000 and $1 million worth of stock in the Our Body Electric fitness company. It received $218,488 in PPP loans.
Five Star Travel Corp.
Oz and his family owned between $5 million and $25 million worth of stock in the Atlanta-based Five Star Travel Corp. It received $2,735,550 between two PPP loans.
Oz and his wife owned $500,000 to $1 million worth of stock in the nutrition and biotechnology company PanTheryx. He served on its board of directors between September 2017 and December 2021, during which time it took $796,987 in PPP funds.
Norwich Partners hotels
Through the Norwich Partners development company, Oz and his family held hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of investments in hotel properties across the country.
His disclosures show investments worth $100,000 to $250,000 in a Lebanon, New Hampshire, property, which got $63,100 in PPP loans.
They held $500,000 to $1 million in a Boston property that received $2,017,850 in PPP loans. They also had investments totalling between $115,000 and $300,000 in two Aventura, Florida, properties that got $1,976,000 in PPP loans.
An Oz spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the American Independent Foundation.
Correction: The original version of this story said that Connect America had received a loan under the PPP. The loan was in fact received by the company 100Plus and forgiven prior to Connect America’s acquisition of the company in August 2021.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.