The image of the businesswoman is the key to the rise of Marjorie Taylor Greene | Political sausage
ATLANTA — Marjorie Taylor Greene relentlessly repeated her central argument: Democrats were destroying the country, and she was ready to fight them. In stump speeches and on social media posts, in television ads and on campaign signs, she spread her message “Save America, Stop Socialism!” She fired an AR-15 gun from the back of a Humvee in one campaign ad, blowing up a sign with the word “socialism” painted in red letters. The stunt drew national attention to her candidacy. “This is why I’m running for Congress, America’s the greatest country in the world,” she told voters in her northwest Georgia district. “We can never allow it to be a socialist country.” Greene’s campaign touted her experience helping run a family-owned construction business as preparing her to carry out her agenda. She enhanced this storyline in video ads and on social media with images that promoted her as a hands-on problem solver and construction executive. “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs,” was the top bullet point in her rollout platform, followed by “Advocate for Business: Never vote for tax increases, always fight burdensome regulations.” The packaging of Marjorie Taylor Greene as a successful businesswoman helped bring the political outsider into the Republican fold, as people in the 14th Congressional District brushed off criticism of Greene’s past support of QAnon and online posts that trafficked in right-wing conspiracies and advocated violence against Democrats. Greene’s business record, however, is one of the least examined aspects of her life. An Atlanta Journal-Constitution review found that while the Trump acolyte touted her experience as a construction company executive running her family business, there’s little evidence of her involvement in the company’s operations. From 2007 until 2011, Greene was listed as CFO of the family construction company, Taylor Commercial, Inc. in corporate registration records filed with the Georgia Secretary of State. Yet for several years during the time she was presumably helping her husband run their construction company, she spent her days at a gym pursuing her passion for CrossFit training and traveling to participate in national competitions. In 2015, she acknowledged in an internet radio interview that when she opened a gym of her own in 2013, she and her business partner knew next to nothing about running a business. And while Greene has railed against big government, the AJC found that the family’s North Fulton construction business profited for years from work on taxpayer-subsidized low-income housing. Greene declined an interview request for this story. She did not directly address written questions the AJC sent seeking to clarify her business record and involvement with her family business. She said her father, who founded the company, had been battling cancer in recent months and passed away on April 12. “The nature of your email and it’s questions shows you have no intent to write anything positive about our company,” Greene wrote in response to the AJC’s questions. Charles S. Bullock III, a political science professor at the University of Georgia, said Greene’s emphasizing her business experience and her hardcore conservative values have been a smart political strategy. “It was very well calibrated for that district, which is one of the most conservative districts in the nation,” he said. “She packaged herself very well for the 14th District.” Company leadership Greene’s congressional web bio is headlined “Conservative businesswoman.” It says she grew up working in her family’s construction company and has a lifetime of business experience. The bio says she and her husband purchased Taylor Commercial in 2002, and the company has managed construction projects totaling a quarter of a billion dollars. Her attorney wrote a letter to her opponent’s counsel last July outlining Greene’s position in the company. The letter said she’s owned a 51% stake since buying the company from her father and that she has been an active participant in its “operation and management.” “Ms. Greene has been leading the company as its majority owner since 2002,” the letter, which Greene tweeted out, said. One of her campaign videos last year showed Greene and her husband, Perry, walking around a construction site together, surveying the work. She wears a hard hat emblazoned with the red, white and blue stars and stripes of America. He wears a hard hat with a UGA Bulldogs logo. In one shot the couple, with her father, reviews what looks like construction documents in an office at the company’s Alpharetta headquarters. Her voice plays over the images, declaring she has created thousands of jobs in Georgia and beyond. She says Democrats in Congress “have no experience managing a company, taking care of employees, managing a budget that creates a profit.” “I’ve spent the past two decades running my business alongside my husband,” Greene says. Taylor Commercial’s website does not support this depiction of her role. The site has been offline for “scheduled maintenance” in recent months, but she has no significant presence on the company’s webpages collected over the past 20 years by the internet archive site Waybackmachine.com. Marjorie Taylor Greene is not listed with other executives on the company’s leadership pages. She is not featured in the archived pages where her father and husband are the central actors in the company’s story. Her father, Robert D. Taylor, started Taylor Construction in 1969, and it became a leading vinyl siding contractor for multi-family housing, commercial businesses and single-family homes in Georgia, according to the pages. Greene’s husband entered the business in 1997, the year after he and Marjorie graduated from the University of Georgia with business degrees. The couple had married in 1995 while still in college. Perry initially served as general manager at Taylor Construction and helped position the company for sale in 1999, according to his company bio. After the company was sold, Robert Taylor carried forward in the multi-family siding business with an offshoot company, Taylor Commercial, Inc. Taylor was CEO, his son-in-law the company’s president. Perry Greene acquired full ownership of the company in 2006 and the business grew exponentially after that, his bio says. It says he has a wife and three children, but doesn’t mention Marjorie by name or say she’s been involved in the company. State records over the past two decades are consistent with the company’s archived web pages. The company’s July 2006 annual registration lists Perry Greene as CEO, replacing his father-in-law in the position. The registration also lists him as CFO and secretary. Over the past 15 years, Taylor Commercial’s annual filings often listed Perry as the only officer of the company. Marjorie Greene appears sparingly. She is listed as chief financial officer from the middle of 2007 to 2010. In 2011, the company reports that she no longer served in that position. After that, if Marjorie Taylor Greene was involved in day-to-day operations of the company, she apparently had a low profile. She does not appear in the company’s corporate filings again for nearly a decade. Prestwick Development, an Atlanta-based firm, did several apartment rehab projects in 2012 with Taylor Commercial as its general contractor. Ken Blankenship, a Prestwick executive involved in the projects, said he usually dealt with Perry Greene or another executive at Taylor Commercial. Blankenship said the company did excellent work, but he never had any dealings with the future congresswoman. “If Marjorie Taylor Greene walked in front of me then I would not have known her,” he said. Affordable housing While the public record provides little evidence of Greene’s involvement in the operations of the company, a large part of her personal wealth is derived from Taylor Commercial. The company is worth between $5 million and $25 million, according to Greene’s campaign financial disclosures, and is the most valuable asset listed in her filings. The company generates between $100,001 and $1 million in annual income for Greene and her husband. Greene drew a salary of $100,000 in 2019 -- the most recent year reported on her disclosures. Her husband’s salary was $200,000. In her bid for Congress, Greene made loans to her campaign totaling $950,000. She spoke about government’s wasteful spending and her desire to phase out government entitlement programs. “I believe the government should be run like a profitable customer focused business,” she said in a candidate questionnaire. Greene’s own construction business, however, had a significant history of profiting off taxpayer-subsidized affordable housing. Taylor Commercial for years has marketed its expertise in Low-Income Housing Tax Credit. “It is now considered the principal federal subsidy available for building and rehabbing affordable housing commercial property,” the company said in a 2013 marketing blog post. The post said $16 million in credits would be available in Georgia that year and encouraged developers, owners and property managers to utilize the company’s expertise to tap into the credits. The company said it had more than four decades of construction experience in low-income housing. “Taylor Commercial Inc. has been at the forefront of affordable housing projects since founder Robert Taylor began what was then Taylor Construction,” the post said. The $9.5 billion annual LIHTC program grants tax credits to help rehabilitate or build affordable rental housing. Developers often sell the credits to private investors to obtain funding for their projects, which must set aside a portion of units for lower-income tenants. Congress controls the amount of credits that can be used and doled out by states each year. While she routinely criticizes government programs, Greene did not answer the AJC’s question about whether she supports the tax credit. The program has had bipartisan support, but has come under repeated criticism and scrutiny since it was created as part of the 1986 Tax Reform Act. Government auditors have said the program lacks proper oversight and accountability. Others have criticized the program as too often benefiting developers, investors and others in the cottage industry around it, while residents in need are left behind. “So many people in the low-income housing web make a lot of money on this stuff,” said Michael Daniel, a civil rights attorney in Dallas, who for decades has advocated on behalf of low-income residents. “It is loosely described in the trade ... as a cascade of cash.” The AJC has found Greene’s company linked to low-income multifamily housing construction projects across the Southeast, many that utilized the tax credit, according to a review of its portfolio listed online, government documents and other records. In 2012, Taylor Commercial touted its success on a government-subsidized renovation at an apartment complex in North Carolina. A press release heralded the company’s efficiency in completing a major rehab at privately owned Raleigh Gardens apartments, but made clear how integral government support had been for the project. “This was a North Carolina Housing Authority LIHTC project with city bonds and HUD funding,” Perry Greene said in the release. The project was one of several the company was involved in with Atlanta developer, Eddy Benoit Jr., who specializes in affordable housing. Around the time the project was launched, Perry Greene formed a company called Greene Raleigh Gardens, LLC. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s 2020 candidate financial disclosure lists it as a real property asset located in Raleigh worth between $50,001 and $100,000. It has generated between $15,001 and $50,000 in annual income, she reported. Taylor Commercial says it has renovated more than 40,000 multi-family units and completed more than 100 renovations, with costs ranging from $100,000 to more than $5 million. Its portfolio of projects displayed on its website over the years has shown a mix of market-rate and affordable housing. In recent years Taylor Commercial has highlighted more upscale apartment projects, but the company has continued to market its experience in affordable housing. Greene in late 2019 suggested Taylor Commercial’s work in low-income neighborhoods was a significant part of its business. “Around 40% of my construction company’s work is in black impoverished communities,” she tweeted. Turning to politics In 2011, the year Greene’s name was removed as CFO in Taylor Commercial’s filings, she entered a CrossFit gym for the first time, then pursued the fitness program with passion and intensity, spending long days at the gym. By 2013, she had opened a CrossFit gym of her own in Alpharetta with a business partner, Travis Mayer, a nationally recognized CrossFit athlete. In a 2015 interview, first reported by Politico, Greene said that when she and Mayer opened the gym they knew a lot about coaching and training, but little about business so they turned to others to learn. “I asked everybody,” she said. “I mean from, from my husband, my father, Travis, we talked to his dad ... I just felt like I couldn’t ask enough people and no questions were wrong.” But she would later tell an interviewer that during the period she owned the gym, she was “out of the construction business.” “My husband was mostly doing that because I was doing the gym,” Greene said. By early 2017, Greene’s interest had turned to politics. Her name no longer appeared as the registered agent on the CrossFit gym’s corporate papers. She joined Twitter in January of that year, the same month of Trump’s inauguration. Taking a page from Trump’s playbook, Greene also began promoting conspiracy theories, posting online to a network of far-right websites and social media accounts. That activity helped raise her profile. In May 2019, Taylor Commercial amended its state registration papers to again include Greene as an officer, listing her as secretary of the company. Two weeks later, Greene announced her candidacy for Congress in the 6th District, and her profile as a business owner of her family’s construction company was central to the campaign’s rollout. Reining in government spending, she said, would be her top priority. “If we look at our country as our household, we’re going to go under foreclosure because we’re overspending,” she said at the time. In mid-December 2019, Greene moved her campaign to run in the 14th District, where voters would sweep her into office last fall. Shortly after she was seated, the House voted to remove her from her committee assignments earlier this year based on her past rhetoric. Since then, she has worked to delay and disrupt legislation, including trying to force the House to adjourn as it was to consider the latest coronavirus relief package. Among other provisions, it includes billions in additional money for the Paycheck Protection Program, which provides forgivable loans to small businesses. Taylor Commercial benefited from the PPP program last year. Greene has called the recent bill a “woke progressive Blue State Bailout.” Earlier this month, she decried the nation’s ballooning deficit in a tweet. “We are a sinking ship,” she wrote. “If I were President one day, I would stop this treacherous path that leads to destruction.” ©2021 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Visit at ajc.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.