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Did billionaire-funded front groups drain the federal stimulus money before it could help small businesses in need? We intend to find out.

This week, the Northwest Accountability Project (NWAP) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the Small Business Administration (SBA), asking for data on all funding given to affiliates and associates of the State Policy Network (SPN) – all 161 of them.

It’s no secret that billionaires have been exploiting the pandemic to enrich themselves at the expense of the middle class. Meanwhile, some of their front groups in the SPN have been harassing first responders, trying to take away their voice on the job during this global crisis while pushing a false narrative about supporting small businesses. We’ve known for a long time that these groups care more about their billionaire funders than “Mom and Pop” shops on Main Street – now we’ll discover if these SPN groups have been reaping taxpayer money intended for small businesses.

The anti-worker Freedom Foundation (Opt Out Today), one of the more brazen and sloppy organizations in the SPN, has been trying to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic for political gain, launching frivolous lawsuits and harassing first responders because they’re union members. Crooked tactics like that already explain their miserable failure as an organization (they’ve spent more than $20 million trying to bust unions over the last five years and have nothing to show for it).

Three hundred forty-nine billion dollars. That’s how much the federal government distributed in aid through the SBA, offered as low-interest loans to help small businesses and organizations. But that money ran dry too quickly, in part because the loan program was abused by the uber-rich, who took more than $1 billion, leaving 80 percent of applicants without funding.

Greed joined hypocrisy when FreedomWorks, a SPN associate who has publicly railed against federal aid for the middle class in the past, also applied for funding from the SBA. Back in 2008, FreedomWorks decried the Great Recession stimulus plan as “unconstitutional,” but now their president has changed his tune, saying, “I would love someone to give us free cash.” The stated desire for “less government” and “lower taxes” so often trumpeted by these groups seems to only apply to working-class families. These groups are living up to the old adage: Socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor.

How many other so-called “conservative think tanks” in the billionaire-funded State Policy Network, many of whom publicly revile government aid to workers while turning a blind eye to corporate subsidies, begged for a bailout funded by taxpayer money? We aim to find out.

Flush with millions from their ultra-wealthy donors, they already receive year-round tax benefits from their non-profit status even though they act as partisan political organizations. Are they double-dipping at the taxpayers’ expense, and pushing needy small businesses out of the loan line? The SBA money was meant for businesses on the edge of collapse, not political front groups with full pockets.

“It is completely wrong and completely reprehensible for the government to be subsidizing these nonprofits, but our real Main Street, small-town businesses are not getting this money,” said one commentator in an interview with the New York Times. We couldn’t agree more.

You can’t pretend to be “pro” small business and then drain their loan lifeline dry. You can’t show revulsion for our government and then suck down its largesse when the timing suits you. Stay tuned for the results of our public records request.

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