• Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer is demanding an investigation into how companies owned by Dallas hotel magnate and Trump megadonor Monty Bennett won the most money from the Paycheck Protection Program.
  • Business Insider reported last week that Bennett paid $50,000 to a pair of Trump fundraisers to lobby the Trump Administration for relief. 
  • A Bennett spokesman said the companies are still deciding whether they will return the money, originally meant to help small businesses survive the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Friday demanded that the Small Business Administration launch an investigation into how one of President Donald Trump’s top donors became the largest recipient of funds from the Paycheck Protection Program.

Dallas billionaire Monty Bennett, whose companies Ashford Inc. and Ashford Hospitality Real Estate Investment Trust, controls a chain of 128 hotels that together collected $58 million in PPP loans and have applied for as much as $126 million.

“As you may be aware, last year Ashford and its subsidiaries had a combined revenue of over $2 billion through a portfolio that includes 130 hotels, primarily operated under premium brands like Intercontinental, Marriott, Hilton and Hyatt,” Schumer wrote in the letter sent Friday. “As a result, I was alarmed to read public reports that Ashford and its subsidiaries applied for and received as much as $126 million in PPP loans funded by the CARES Act, making it collectively the single largest participant in the Program.”

Business Insider broke the news last week that Bennett’s companies had paid $50,000 to a pair of Trump’s fundraisers to lobby the administration for relief from the PPP, originally slated to help small businesses. Bennett donated $50,000 to the Trump campaign’s main fundraising committee, Trump Victory. 

The PPP became a flashpoint in the public debate over federal bailouts for businesses, as large chains and profitable ventures like Shake Shack and the Los Angeles Lakers drained the fund before small businesses could get relief.

Shake Shack, the Lakers, and others have announced they were returning the money. A spokesman for Bennett told Business Insider Thursday that his companies were still reviewing whether they would return the money or not. The spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Schumer’s call for an investigation.

A spokeswoman for the SBA said that their agency does not comment on requests sent from federal lawmakers.

Through March, Bennett pleaded his case online and on cable news, stating that he was close to defaulting on $4 billion worth of debt and had to lay off 90 percent of the hotel staff across his conglomerate. 

Late Thursday, Douglas Kessler, the president and CEO of Bennett’s largest hotel branch, Ashford Hospitality Trust, resigned from the company. Kessler left, according to a statement, “to pursue other professional opportunities.” Kessler did not return an emailed request for comment sent to his old Ashford email account. A Bennett spokesman said they would not comment on Kessler’s departure beyond the statement. 

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