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Gov handouts are evil — except when they're not

| December 9, 2020 1:00 AM

Idaho Freedom Foundation, feel free to help yourself.

Brent Regan, head of the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee and chairman of the Idaho Freedom Foundation board of directors, you too.

When it comes to “free” money, even the state’s most conservative watchdogs can’t resist a little largesse when it's just sitting on the table like a pile of pork chops.

According to several news reports, five of the IFF’s eight board members helped themselves to more than $2 million in federal Paycheck Protection Program dollars — even as they were scolding others for accepting “government handouts.”

IFF lives to lobby the Idaho Legislature to roll back government and keep its nose out of the private sector's business. Unless, of course, the government is offering to help bail out IFF board members' businesses.

Today IFF board members must be feeling a bit like Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin. McGeachin, a renowned railer against people accepting government goodies, had zero problem taking more than $300,000 for her businesses from the PPP. She then turned around and, in an op-ed published in several Idaho newspapers, ripped those “who advocate socialized medicine, unearned income, and other handouts … that foster dependency.”

The IFF itself hauled in almost $130,000 from the PPP, then basically blamed Gov. Brad Little for making them do it.

“Meanwhile, we also knew that pro-socialist groups would have no problem whatsoever accepting all the money they could from the government,” IFF President Wayne Hoffman wrote on Facebook. “We decided it only made sense to do the same. That’s not our preference, of course, but the actions of the government left us little choice.”

Yet a couple months after cashing in for his own outfit, Hoffman ripped state officials for OKing a rent and utilities relief program for Idaho citizens. He called it a “government handout” and suggested recipients got themselves into financial difficulty because they made irresponsible choices — like leaving the air conditioning on during the summer.

Regan, president of Regan Designs, collected $74,800 — even though his loan request showed zero jobs reported. Not to be outdone, IFF board member and attorney Bryan Smith of Idaho Falls raked in about $200,000 from the PPP for his businesses.

Smith told Boise State Public Radio last week that “government overreach, government-created hysteria” over the COVID-19 crisis was the real culprit, not the coronavirus itself.

“[The PPP loan] is compensation for damages caused by the government in the first place,” Smith told Boise State Public Radio. “That’s unlike some other programs that exist where the government just hands out money having not damaged the individual in the first place.”

Aside from the laughably absurd hypocrisy on display here, there’s one other problem to Smith’s and Hoffman’s alleged rationale. These PPP loans, which don’t need to be paid back if the borrowers can show the money was used to keep staffing at normal levels, are not “government” money.

As true fiscal conservatives know, the funds come from taxpayers, not the government. It’s the taxpayers who are hurt by the hypocrites, not the elected officials who dole out the dollars.

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