by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
North Carolina Democratic Senate nominee Cal Cunningham’s company collected up to $2 million in taxpayer dollars in coronavirus relief even as the candidate said that the Paycheck Protection Program “harms communities.”
WasteZero, a Raleigh-based environmentalist trash service, obtained between $1 and $2 million in PPP funding on May 3, data released by the Small Business Administration on Monday show. Cunningham earned about $400,000 in 2019 in his role as the company’s general counsel and vice president. He has repeatedly criticized the federal program, which aims to support small businesses struggling with coronavirus shutdowns. Just two months after Senate Democrats blocked a Republican effort to bankroll the depleting fund in April, Cunningham called the program “unacceptable,” saying it “harms communities.”
“For PPP loans to have ‘generally missed the industries and areas most heavily impacted by COVID-19′ is unacceptable,” he said in a tweet. “Leaving behind small businesses—and disproportionately those that are Black- and Latino-owned—harms communities.”
The former state legislator “supports [WasteZero’s] outreach to municipal and state leaders,” according to an archive of the company’s website. Cunningham also has stock options and a convertible note of up to $50,000 tied to the company, according to his candidate financial report. Cunningham told reporters that he was still working for the company in February. He has since been removed from WasteZero’s website and the company does not publicly acknowledge any legal representation on its site. Neither Cunningham nor WasteZero responded to requests for comment about PPP or the candidate’s role in the company.
Cunningham’s lucrative legal career has helped propel his political career. He launched his Senate bid in 2019 by loaning his campaign $200,000 before winning the Democratic primary in March with 57 percent of the vote. Cunningham has also criticized the Trump administration for “refusing to disclose which companies are getting the money.”