Senate hopeful Jim Lamon rips Capitol Hill spending, but his company got COVID-19 relief

Yvonne Wingett Sanchez
Arizona Republic
Jim Lamon, Depcom Power CEO, makes a point during a discussion about the economy and jobs at Depcom Power in Scottsdale on Aug. 28, 2019.

Republican Jim Lamon, who entered Arizona's GOP U.S. Senate race this week, suggested Congress was spending excessively to deal with the pandemic’s economic fallout.

In an announcement video, Lamon lamented the power "to spend so much money, our grandchildren will struggle to pay off the debt" while an on-screen headline noted that Congress has already spent $4 trillion in COVID-19 relief spending. 

But records show his own company, Depcom Power, received $2.6 million in relief last year from the Paycheck Protection Program, intended by Congress to provide some economic reprieve for payroll, rent, mortgage interest or utilities. Lamon is the founder and chairman of the Scottsdale-based solar engineering and construction company.

The company was among thousands of Arizona businesses that received federal aid.

In a written statement on Wednesday evening, a spokesperson for Lamon's campaign said Depcom plans on paying back the funds. Under PPP guidelines, employers generally are not required to repay the money if they used it on certain expenses, such as salaries.

In the earlier days of the pandemic, amid stay-at-home orders in an effort to curb the spread of the virus, Depcom's projects halted, the spokesperson said.

"In lieu of layoffs, management took a significant pay cut, slashed personnel spending, and applied for a loan not knowing how long the shutdown would last," Stephen Puetz said. "Now that the company has recovered, management proactively approved and budgeted repayment of the loan — which will be repaid in full over the next two years.

"This proactive repayment is extremely rare and represents Jim and his company's core values of putting America and its taxpayers first," Puetz added.

Lamon is the first Republican to enter the 2022 Senate race, where Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., again faces voters, this time seeking a full six-year term. 

The race is expected to draw more GOP candidates, and hundreds of millions of dollars, in what will surely test the potency of Trump-friendly figures like Lamon, in a newly purple Arizona. 

Casting himself as a political outsider who would take on the establishment and the “elites,” Lamon, 65, of Paradise Valley, criticized the trillions the federal government has spent and approved in response to the yearlong pandemic. 

“Our political and media elites have a lot of power — it's a power to divide us and distract us,” his introductory video said. “To amplify the angry, the lies, and suppress the reasonable. The power to spend so much money, our grandchildren will struggle to pay off the debt.”

The video cites information from a CNN story published in February that said Congress had approved $4 trillion in COVID-19 relief funds. 

The multiple rounds of COVID-19 stimulus funds signed into law by former President Donald Trump and more recently, President Joe Biden, have gone toward direct stimulus checks to individuals and families, vaccination programs, health care centers, state, local, and tribal governments, business programs and more.

Depcom Power Inc. received $2,660,600 in PPP funds last year, according to ProPublica’s database of federal aid. The company employs 1,600 workers across the nation, according to its website.

In its application for the money, the company said it intended on spending the money on payroll. The application was approved on May 1, according to records. 

Meanwhile, a Tucson-based company Kelly co-founded and advised until February 2019, when he launched his first Senate campaign, received $1,880,176 in PPP funds last year, according to ProPublica’s data. The company was approved for $1,880,176 more in February. In both applications, World View said almost all of the money would be spent on payroll. 

Kelly’s 2022 campaign did not comment on the PPP funds. A spokesperson pointed to the campaign’s 2020 statement that noted Kelly wasn’t at the company at the time of the first application.

Sarah Guggenheimer, an Arizona Democratic Party spokesperson, said “Lamon’s hypocrisy reveals precisely why the GOP’s opposition” to the relief funds "is going to be a major problem for the entire primary field." 

Polling shows the American public has widely supported the most recent COVID-19 package that President Joe Biden and Democrats passed through Congress with no GOP support. 

On his campaign website, Lamon said Washington “has a spending problem. While the American people balance their own budgets, politicians are using our national credit card to burden our children and grandchildren with trillions in debt.” 

Depcom Power’s use of government aid is a reminder of a debate that unfolded last year, as recipient data revealed conservatives who criticized the program yet took the money.

Citizens Against Government Waste, an anti-government spending organization, took at least $150,000 in loans, according to Forbes. The free-market Ayn Rand Institute received a loan for up to $1 million, according to Reuters.

The national debt exceeds $28 trillion, according to the U.S. Treasury. If elected, Lamon would support getting rid of “non-essential agencies” and oppose new taxes, his website said.

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