CHICAGO — Last July, Republican candidate for Illinois governor Darren Bailey took to Facebook to denounce both the extension of federally-enhanced state jobless benefits and Democratic President Joe Biden’s visit to Crystal Lake to promote his coronavirus relief agenda.
“Here’s the dangerous slope that we are on in America,” the state senator and farmer from downstate Xenia said, while discussing Biden’s visit. “That’s exactly what we heard: Free stuff. Handouts. Don’t worry about it, the government’s going to take care of you.”
“Friends,” he said, “that’s socialism.”
But only months before, on Feb. 26, Bailey received the latest of a series of payments from the federal government’s coronavirus business relief Paycheck Protection Program under the Small Business Administration — $231,475 to support 11 jobs at the family farm he owns with his sons.
Less than a month later, on March 22, Bailey reported a personal loan of $150,000 to his campaign for governor, listing “Self-Employed (Bailey Family Farms)” as his employer on the required state campaign finance disclosure form.
All told, records compiled in a database produced by investigative news agency ProPublica show Bailey’s family farm and two other entities he owns, Bailey Family Freight and the Virtue House Ministries Christian school run by his wife, received $569,045 in so-called PPP loans from April 2020 to February 2021.
Additionally, Bailey Family Farms got $282,424 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program in 2020 to compensate farmers for COVID-19 related losses.
As was the case with most PPP loans, Bailey’s loans were forgiven.
Bailey’s campaign said Bailey and his farm, “like millions of hardworking people in Illinois,” were “tremendously impacted by the forced government shutdowns and resulting economic downturn.”
“Like multiple businesses in Illinois, the Bailey Family Farm participated in the programs and abided by all the relevant rules,” Bailey’s campaign said in a statement.
In addition to the PPP and Coronavirus Food Assistance payments, Bailey has received $2.1 million in federal agriculture corn, soybean, wheat and sorghum subsidies for his five-county farming operation since 1995, according to a database compiled by the Environmental Working Group, an organization backed by progressive money.
Bailey’s campaign said the U.S. Department of Agriculture subsidies are determined by the federal government due to market factors including the influence of agriculture imports and exports. Bailey Family Farms, the campaign contended, gets less per acre in subsidies than the average farm in Illinois.
Bailey’s rhetoric about socialism in his July Facebook post was consistent with comments he has made in railing against big government control — particularly over efforts to deal with the pandemic. He has repeatedly accused Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker of being a “tyrant” over business closures and masking and vaccine rules and mandates.
Bailey made an unsuccessful legal challenge to Pritzker’s executive authority, and in May 2020 was removed from the House floor for failing to wear a required mask. He has refused to disclose his vaccination status.
A member of the so-called Eastern Bloc of ultraconservative downstate lawmakers, Bailey has co-sponsored legislation to create a “New Illinois” state, separate from Chicago and its political influences on the region despite acknowledging it is impractical to accomplish.
Bailey is not the only Republican candidate for governor to take part in the Paycheck Protection Program.
Gary Rabine, a Bull Valley businessman who owns a Schaumburg-based paving and construction business group, received nearly $2.7 millioncovering seven different entities for 104 jobs in April 2020, the ProPublica database showed.
Jesse Sullivan, a Petersburg entrepreneur, received $67,545 for his Alter Global firm to cover four jobs in May 2020.
Paul Schimpf, an attorney and former state senator from Waterloo, did not appear in the database.
But it is the timing of Bailey’s most recent PPP loan that prompts questions. Bailey announced his candidacy for governor on Feb. 22, four days before he received the second PPP loan for his farming operation, and exactly one month before he loaned his campaign $150,000. Usually, candidates give money to their campaigns at the same time they announce to demonstrate financial wherewithal for the campaign ahead.
Rabine announced his candidacy almost a year after his last PPP loan while Sullivan’s candidacy came 16 months after his PPP loan.
Under the SBA’s rules to obtain a PPP loan, borrowers “must certify in good faith that their PPP loan request is necessary” and “review carefully the required certification that ‘current economic uncertainty makes this loan request necessary to support the ongoing operations of the applicant.’ ”
“Borrowers must make this certification in good faith, taking into account their current business activity and their ability to access other sources of liquidity sufficient to support their ongoing operations in a manner that is not significantly detrimental to the business,” the SBA said.
When asked why Bailey’s farm needed the PPP loan if he personally had money to give his campaign for governor, Bailey’s campaign did not directly answer the question.
“Every penny was accounted for and reported accordingly. There is zero connection to these things and only the liberal press is pretending there is,” Bailey spokesman Joe DeBose said in a statement.
While Bailey was critical of Biden and government handouts in his July Facebook post, DeBose said the primary message was to come out against Pritzker’s decision to extend federal supplemental jobless benefits, contending that doing so was “over-incentivizing workers to stay home, which created an economic mess that continues to devastate local businesses and families as inflation soars.”
The extended federal jobless benefits ended in Illinois on Sept. 11.
DeBose said Bailey and his office has and continues “to help Illinoisans apply and receive the help they need,” including pandemic-related business grants and loans as well as jobless benefits from the state Department of Employment Security, which had repeated problems in responding to a surge of requests for help due to the pandemic.
“The elites and the fake news media can attempt to mislead people, but Illinois voters and working families know better” about Bailey, he said.