Ted Cruz helped Texas fracking billionaires reap millions in COVID aid relief: report

Ted Cruz helped Texas fracking billionaires reap millions in COVID aid relief: report
U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas speaking at the 2018 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. // Credit: Gage Skidmore

According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) lent a helping hand to two Texas fracking billionaires by asking for changes to rules that would allow them to acquire a $35 million COVID-19 relief loan aimed at helping struggling businesses stay afloat.

The report notes that Texas billionaires Dan and Farris Wilks were on a buying spree as the coronavirus pandemic spread across the country -- buying up bankrupt competitors and investing in others -- only to find they were prohibited from taking advantage of the government-backed loan program as one of their many companies struggled.

According to the Journal, they then reached out to Cruz for help.

"Since spring, businesses controlled by the Wilks brothers have hunted for deals among fracking firms going through bankruptcy and taken or increased stakes in at least six other companies, corporate filings show,": the Journal's Ted Mann and Brody Mullins reported before adding, "But the industry was already under pressure from international competition and a sagging oil price by the time the pandemic hit, and its mounting woes prompted the Wilkses and others to turn to allies in Washington, including Mr. Cruz. The Republican senator helped convince the Trump administration and the Federal Reserve to change the rules for pandemic loans to ensure oil and gas firms could participate."

The report goes on to note that the changes Cruz asked for quickly allowed the wealthy Texas oilmen to cash in.

"Soon after the U.S. government changed the rules of its lending program in April, a Wilks family company, ProFrac Holdings LLC, applied for and received a $35 million loan, federal records show," the report notes before adding, "The Wilks brothers are longtime financial backers of Mr. Cruz. The brothers donated $15 million to a super PAC called Keeping the Promise that championed Mr. Cruz's 2016 presidential campaign, making them the largest financial backers of his political career."

Defending Cruz's actions, a spokesperson for the senator stated the senator "... worked to ensure small and medium-sized businesses directly harmed by the economic impacts of this pandemic had access to emergency liquidity," said Lauren Blair Aronson, a spokeswoman for the senator. "The result of his leadership was a program that has helped about 25 U.S. energy producers, including roughly a dozen in Texas, and helped protect over 300,000 oil and gas jobs in Texas."

According to Chris Kuveke of the non-profit BailoutWatch, the COVID dollars were a gift from Cruz to his campaign donors.

"ProFrac's loan is blatant misappropriation of taxpayer dollars," Kuveke stated. "It's hard not to connect the dots."

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