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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.]

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When Aileen Lee originally coined the term "unicorn" in late 2013, she was describing the 39 "U.S.-based software companies started since 2003 and valued at over $1 billion by public or private market investors."

Flashback: It got redefined in early 2015 by yours truly and Erin Griffith, in a cover story for Fortune, as any privately-held startup valued at $1 billion or more. At the time, we counted 80 of them.

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Why it matters: The changes could reduce traffic to some news publishers, particularly companies that post a lot of political content.

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The big picture: “Our current infrastructure is not adequate when it comes to these kinds of weather extremes,” Joshua Rhodes, a University of Texas energy expert, tells Axios.

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About 70% of adults in the European Union are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said Tuesday.

Why it matters: The milestone makes the E.U. one of the world's leaders in inoculations, after an initially lagging vaccine campaign, the New York Times notes.

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Jury selection begins today in USA v. Elizabeth Holmes, with the actual jury trial to get underway on Sept. 8.

Why it matters: Theranos was the biggest fraud in Silicon Valley history, putting both hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of patients' health at risk.

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