TThe Small Business Administration’s watchdog was asked to investigate after a Virginia radio company that paid millions of dollars to broadcast Chinese Communist Party propaganda received more than $100,000 through a paycheck protection program.
Potomac Radio Group, which this month registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act for its work on the state-run China Global Television Network, received a $106,228 loan through the SBA in April 2020, with the US government forgiving the loan eight months later. A source familiar with the matter told Washington Examiner That the SBA had conducted fraud experts conducting a post-forgiveness review of the loan and also referred the controversy to the SBA’s inspector general for investigation.
Potomac owns WCRW AM 1190, which is heard in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, DC. The company admitted that it received approximately $4.4 million from CGTN and CCP’s China International Radio throughout 2019, 2020 and 2021.
“The SBA does not comment on individual borrowers. The Small Business Administration takes fraud very seriously, and as such, all applicants are required to provide certification of their eligibility when applying,” Shannon Giles, SBA public affairs officer, told Washington Examiner. “Counterfeiting of eligibility is illegal and, where appropriate, these cases are referred to the Office of the Inspector General. The Office of Inspector General and the agency’s federal partners are working hard to resolve the incidents of fraud.”
Brian Lane, co-owner of the Potomac, told The Washington Examiner, “We do not comment on potential or ongoing government communications” but “we believe we have fully complied with the rules and process.”
Sheldon Shoemaker, SBA Assistant Inspector for Management and Operations, told Washington Examiner That “it is the practice of the Office of the Inspector General not to confirm or deny investigative activity.”
DC radio station broadcasting CCP propaganda
Congress added stricter loan eligibility requirements when the Economic Follow-up Act became law in December 2020. The 2021 SBA rules note that the law “prohibits several additional categories of borrowers from obtaining a second-draw PPP loan including” Certain entities organized under the laws of the People’s Republic of China” as well as “any person who is required to submit a registration statement” under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
The source insisted that a company like Potomac would now be deemed ineligible for the PPP loan because it would have been classified as a lobbying firm.
Horizon Advisory, a strategic advisory firm, released a report in August 2020 confirming that $192 million to $419 million in PPP loans had been provided to more than 125 companies owned or invested by Chinese entities, and that at least 32 Chinese companies She took out more than $1 million in loans, totaling between $85 million and $180 million. These numbers have undoubtedly increased since then.
“CCP treats recovery from COVID-19 as a competitive interaction,” the study authors wrote, adding: “The extent and nature of PRC-owned entities invested by the PRC and connected to the PRC among PPP loan recipients indicate that Without appropriate policy, safety barriers and US tax dollars earmarked for relief, recovery, and the growth of the US economy – and small businesses in particular – risk supporting foreign competitors, namely China.”
Republican Senator Marco Rubio introduced the Prevention of SBA Assistance from Going to China Act in March 2021, with the goal of taking further action to prevent any SBA assistance from going to Chinese entities.
The Florida Republican said: “American companies are no stranger to the wide range of strategies Chinese companies use to starve their competitors. Exploitation of taxpayer-backed SBA programs designed to boost our small businesses is among the most egregious.”
Potomac’s WCRW launched The Bridge podcast in August 2020, with the show co-hosted by John St. Augustine of Chicago and Zhou Heyang of CRI. Podcast episodes featured Saint Augustine and Chu praising China’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, while Saint Augustine has repeatedly attacked Americans and the U.S. response and said he doesn’t care about the source of COVID-19.
At the request of Trump’s Department of Justice, CGTN registered as a foreign agent for China in 2019. The U.S. Department of State designated CGTN and CRI as “foreign missions” for China in 2020.
Potomac acquired WUST and WCRW in 2019, with WUST broadcasting Spanish religious content and WCRW broadcasting CRI programming for years.
“We applied for a loan for both stations. Spanish priests had difficulty maintaining their churches during COVID and were unable to come to the studios to do their shows” Washington Examiner, Claiming that the loan was only used for WUST, he added, “After selling WUST, we did not apply for the second round of PPP loans.”
Potomac’s FARA filings show that prior to the April 2020 loan, it received $527,627 from CGTN in July 2019, $804,119 in August 2019, and $259,872 in September 2019, and has since received millions from CCP.
“We have finished some of our work with them and are reviewing our options at the moment, including selling the station,” Lin said.
FARA’s request said the “foreign director” of the Potomac is CGTN, which is under the control of the CCP’s publicity department.
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Potomac said it bought the station in January 2019 and “continued to broadcast programming material prepared by CGTN for broadcast.”
“We are not agents of the Chinese Communist Party,” Lin insisted. “The previous owners consulted the Department of Justice in 2015 and were not required to register…However, DOJ’s views have since evolved… Although we still think we don’t need to register, we have.”
Justice Department spokesman Wayne Hornbuckle said: Washington Examiner The Ministry of Justice “will not confirm or deny the existence of an ongoing investigation.”