Matt Birk is a passionate small business owner, and he wants the stifling forces of government off his back.
“You feel like the government’s against you,” says the ex-NFLer and current Republican politician. “There’s too many regulations, too many taxes. There are enough obstacles to try and get a business off the ground without the government trying to push down on you.”
But Birk, who earned an estimated $51,498,037 throughout his 15-year football career, elected to have the federal government uplift his motivational speaking/consulting biz. Matt Birk & Co. LLC received two fully forgiven Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans totaling $64,000 to help keep its two employees paid during COVID-19. Those employees appear to be Birk and Arkansas businessman Paul Vitale. The LLC is registered to Birk’s 11,422-square-foot Mendota Heights mansion.
Here’s a look at company HQ via Zillow:
In the Matthew Lesko sense, Birk is no dummy. The Harvard-educated man running to be Scott Jensen’s lieutenant governor didn’t leave any free money on the table. But, for a party that worships at the altar of free-market capitalism, opting for a handout that appears to further enrich an already rich man? Lousy optics, even if it’s perfectly legal.
Racket reached to the Jensen campaign and Vitale for comment. We didn’t hear back.
And Birk’s PPP wheelings/dealings don’t stop with Matt Birk & Co. LLC. Unity High School, the Burnsville private school Birk launched in 2019 to turn teens into “virtuous, clear-thinking Catholics,” received a fully forgiven PPP loan of $19,900. Unity listed five employees, so presumably at least four workers not named Birk benefited from that one.
At a cost of almost $800 billion, the Paycheck Protection Program rushed out 10 million mostly forgivable loans to, theoretically, keep workers on payroll during the worst of COVID-19. In practice, workers saw less than 35% of that massive top-down windfall, according to a new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research; the rest was pocketed by small-biz owners and shareholders. As many as 15% of PPP loans could be fraudulent, the New York Times reported last year. “Nothing like this has ever happened before… it is the biggest fraud in a generation” former U.S. attorney Matthew Schneider recently told NBC News.
Galling PPP examples abound. California businessman Mustafa Qadiri used his $5 million in aid to buy a Ferrari, a Lamborghini, and a Bentley. Shake Shack, the international burger biz that’s demonstrably not small, returned its $10 million loan amid backlash. The closest Birk corollary might be the lib-grifting podcast Mueller, She Wrote; host Allison Gill is wishy-washy on student loan forgiveness, though she was happy to collect $52,157 in forgiven PPP cash to keep her podcast afloat during a boom time for podcasting.
Of the 228,000 Minnesota-based PPP loans worth $16.6 billion, 28 businesses received the maximum amount of $10 million each. That includes the Star Tribune Media Co., whose owner happens to be worth $2.4 billion. (The Strib took a charitable look at the relief program last month… without disclosing its own multi-million dollar benefit.) Among the other $10M local little guys ya love to root for: law firms Robins-Kaplan and Fredrikson & Byron.