UPDATE 5-3-2020: The Ashford Group of Companies, which includes Ashford Inc., Ashford Hospitality Trust, Inc., and Braemar Hotels & Resorts Inc., will return all funds provided by the Small Business Administration's Paycheck Protection Program. According to a statement from the company, the return is due to the agency's recently changed rules and inconsistent federal guidance that put the companies at compliance risk.
Dallas hotelier Monty Bennett has emerged as the face of everything that went wrong with the Paycheck Protection Program, the federal program that was supposed to benefit small businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
According to a story in the Wall Street Journal, Bennett's company Ashford Hospitality Trust and some of its subsidiaries received approximately $30 million — more than 10 times the typical amount and the largest amount received among the more than 100 public companies the WSJ reviewed.
At the same time, Bennett and his father, Archie, received $2 million in dividends.
Another company with which Bennett is involved, Braemar Hotels & Resorts Inc., received nearly $16 million in PPP funds.
Bennett is a major Republican donor who contributed more than $200,000 to political action committees supporting Trump.
In mid-March, Bennett cried to CBS News about how difficult the pandemic was on the hotel industry, and said that Ashford Inc. and its subsidiaries, which own more than 100 hotel properties, had laid off or furloughed 95 precent of their 7,000 employees.
Ashford Hospitality Trust also stopped making its debt payments. In March, Brookfield Asset Management, one of its lenders, accused the company of committing a "fraudulent scheme" by moving funds around.
The PPP loans have gone to numerous multimillion-dollar companies such as Ruth's Hospitality Group Inc. and Potbelly, while smaller businesses were left out in the cold. Ruth's Chris got $20 million — the second highest amount behind Ashford Hospitality Trust.
Bennett is the largest shareholder of Ashford Inc., which manages Ashford Hospitality Trust.
Bennett has also contributed to the campaign of now-U.S. Rep. Lance Gooden. According to the Texas Tribune, Gooden and Bennett own property together. Gooden, while serving as a state representative, "helped passed special interest legislation that benefited Bennett."