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The PPP shame game targets Josh Kushner's venture capital firm Thrive Capital

The Paycheck Protection Program expired earlier this month, but the insidious PPP shame game remains very much alive.

Driving the news: On Tuesday, a left-leaning government watchdog group called Accountable.US emailed reporters about how at least five portfolio companies of Thrive Capital, the venture capital firm led by Joshua Kushner, received PPP loans.


The email called these loans "another example of how the well-connected exploited the program at the expense of mom-and-pop shops across the country."

  • Accountable.US provided no evidence that Joshua Kushner ever discussed these loans with his brother Jared, or anyone else in the Trump administration. Neither in the email nor when I asked directly.
  • In fact, it linked to a NY Post report about the loans, which states that Thrive "strongly warned against taking PPP funds in an April 7 email to portfolio companies that asked for advice about the loans." But none of that made it into the Accountable.US email.
  • Thrive doesn't sit on the boards of any of the relevant companies.

Thrive's email argument to portfolio companies was that the loans were intended for mom-and-pop businesses, not venture-backed startups.

  • As regular readers know, I disagree with Thrive on this point — believing instead that PPP's purpose was to save small business jobs, wherever they may be.
  • My point-of-view was shared by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and later codified via Treasury Department guidance on affiliation rules.

Reasonable people can disagree here, and certainly there were serious fairness and access issues with how PPP was rolled out.

  • And there was no doubt fraud that hopefully will be uncovered, prosecuted, and better defended against if Congress and the White House ever get their act together on the next phase of federal stimulus (which is expected to include a PPP extension).

But claiming that what Thrive or its startups did was exploitative is, in itself, a cynical attempt to exploit political animus. It, and efforts like it, should stop.

[Note: Axios qualified for a PPP loan, which it later chose to return.]

Boris Johnson announces month-long COVID-19 lockdown in U.K.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday outlined his plan for the country's second coronavirus lockdown as the nation topped the 1 million case mark, per Johns Hopkins University data.

Details: Starting Thursday, people in England must stay at home, and bars and restaurants will close except for takeout. All non-essential retail will also be shuttered. Inter-mingling between households and outbound international travel or out-of-home boarding will be prohibited. The new measures will last through at least December 2.

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Trump's legacy is shaped by his narrow interests

President Trump's policy legacy is as much defined by what he's ignored as by what he's involved himself in.

The big picture: Over the past four years, Trump has interested himself in only a slim slice of the government he leads. Outside of trade, immigration, a personal war against the "Deep State" and the hot foreign policy issue of the moment, Trump has left many of his Cabinet secretaries to work without interruption, let alone direction.

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Ipsos poll: COVID trick-or-treat

Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Note ±3.3% margin of error for the total sample size; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

About half of Americans are worried that trick-or-treating will spread coronavirus in their communities, according to this week's installment of the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

Why it matters: This may seem like more evidence that the pandemic is curbing our nation's cherished pastimes. But a closer look reveals something more nuanced about Americans' increased acceptance for risk around activities in which they want to participate.

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Dunkin' Brands agrees to $11B Inspire Brands sale

Dunkin' Brands, operator of both Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin-Robbins, agreed on Friday to be taken private for nearly $11.3 billion, including debt, by Inspire Brands, a quick-serve restaurant platform sponsored by Roark Capital.

Why it matters: Buying Dunkin’ will more than double Inspire’s footprint, making it one of the biggest restaurant deals in the past 10 years. This could ultimately set up an IPO for Inspire, which already owns Arby's, Jimmy John's and Buffalo Wild Wings.

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Federal judge halts Trump administration limit on TikTok

A federal judge on Friday issued an injunction preventing the Trump administration from imposing limits on the distribution of TikTok, Bloomberg reports. The injunction request came as part of a suit brought by creators who make a living on the video service.

Why it matters: The administration has been seeking to force a sale of, or block, the Chinese-owned service. It also moved to ban the service from operating in the U.S. as of Nov. 12, a move which was put on hold by Friday's injunction.

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Podcast: How hospitals are prepping for the new COVID-19 surge

Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are surging, particularly in areas that had been largely spared in the spring. One big question now is if hospitals are better prepared for this new wave, including if they'll be able to continue providing elective services.

Axios Re:Cap digs into what hospitals have, and what they still need, with Lloyd Dean, CEO of CommonSpirit Health, one of America's largest operators of hospitals and health clinics.

Belgium imposes lockdown, citing "health emergency" due to influx of COVID-19 cases

Belgium is enforcing a strict lockdown starting Sunday amid rising coronavirus infections, hospital admissions and a surge of deaths, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced on Friday.

Why it matters: De Croo said the government saw no choice but to lock down "to ensure that our health care system does not collapse." Scientists and health officials said deaths have doubled every six days, per the Guardian.

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First look: Reid Hoffman launches $1M ad urging election patience

Billionaire and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, one of Democrats' biggest donors, tells Axios he's launching a $1 milliondigital ad campaign in battleground states urging voters to be patient with election results and prepare for no winner to be known on Nov. 3, no matter what "some people" may prematurely declare via Twitter.

Driving the news: The three-minute ad, titled "We Count! A Patriotic Musical Extravaganza," features the voice of "The Big Bang Theory's" Jim Parsons and Broadway star Barrett Doss. The spot will appear on Facebook targeting voters in the swing states of Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

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