Iowa Politicians Who Have Benefitted from Government Aid Complaining About Debt Forgiveness
On August 24, 2022. After President Joe Biden announced a student debt forgiveness plan, politicians and pundits stepped forward to criticize the policy. Many of these people who were criticizing the plan have benefitted from generous government aid, bailouts, and PPP loans, which is important context for any reporting about the issue.
Locally, as Republican politicians in Iowa call the plan “a slap in the face” to hard working Iowans, and a “redistribution of wealth.” Reporting by many local media outlets has failed (so far) to add the critical context that the same Iowa politicians, who are criticizing loan forgiveness, have themselves benefitted from loan forgiveness.
And I will add, this isn’t about shaming people. PPP loans, subsidies, and other forms of government aid are necessary and my own business has benefitted from them. Additionally, no amount of pointing out hypocrisy will change anyone’s mind, especially not if that mind is entrenched in party politics. But I do think it is important and useful to have accountability and a record. And too often, in local media markets, where journalism has been razed and scrapped for parts, many of these stories go unwritten and unremarked upon, except for in the slippery, forgetful world of social media.
Over on Bleeding Heartland, Laura Belin pointed out some of the hypocrisies especially with regard to farm subsidies:
In 2019 alone, Iowa farmers received $2.34 billion in federal government subsidies, according to the Environmental Working Group's database. Crop insurance subsidies accounted for about $342 million of that amount, paid for by American taxpayers who mostly are not engaged in farming.
The Environmental Working Group's Midwest director, Anne Schechinger, noted, "While student loan debt relief will be $10k-$20k per person, farmers can get up to $125k per person/$250k per married couple in #farmsubsidies every year. And no limit on crop insurance."
I did some additional research and put together a list that I will update as I get more information.
Iowa’s governor Kim Reynolds immediately criticized the plan. However, Reynold’s accepted billions of dollars in pandemic aid, and some of that money was used for staff salaries. A state audit charged Reynolds with a misuse of the over $450,000 in money.
Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley criticized the plan. His farm, Grassley Family Farms, LLC, has received over $400,000 in farm subsidies. Additionally, the Iowa Volleyball Association, run by Grassley’s son Jay received $46,300 in PPP loans.
- Ashley Hinson's husband company had $143,043.18 in PPP loans forgiven. The firm does business at Elliot Hartman, but its registered under TRANSPORTATION INSURANCE & CONSULTANTS, INC. Also, as our governor likes to say, Iowa didn't close. Note the addresses (h/t )Exactly. Small business owners were forced to close their doors & many liberal governors forced them to stay shut down. No one forced people to take out student loans they couldn’t afford to pay back. https://t.co/cGC2pbkP37Ashley Hinson @RepAshleyHinson
The head of the Iowa GOP, Jeff Kaufmann, also criticized the plan, calling it a “slap in the face.” Kaufmann’s son, Iowa State House Rep. Robert Freeman Kaufmann (aka Bobby), received not one, but two PPP loans. The first for $13,302 and the second $19,454. Additionally, Kaufmann’s brother, Steven, received $20,955. It’s important to know that Kaufmann’s family runs a farming and live stock enterprise. So, family businesses run together. I found additional family members who benefitted from PPP loans. All those loans were, of course, forgiven.
Congressman Randy Feenstra, also criticized Biden’s plan, stating, “This massive redistribution of wealth to the wealthiest and most educated Americans is a disservice to Iowa taxpayers who have responsibly paid off their own loans. Just like the rest of Biden’s agenda, this decision will make inflation even worse.” But it was PPP loans that kept Feenstra’s wife’s school afloat in the pandemic. Lynette Feenstra teaches at Hull Christian School which received $176,035 in PPP loans, which were forgiven. Dordt University where Feenstra used to teach business classes, received $4,000,000 in PPP loans. The Foreign Candy Company, where Feenstra worked as head of sales received $308,000 in PPP loans.
Iowa Republican strategist, David Kochel tweeted that the debt forgiveness program was, “The message student loan forgiveness sends to the masses of Americans who joined a branch of the military in large part to earn the GI Bill benefit is going to create a LOT of resentment.” Kochel’s business, Red Wave Communications, which is registered in Edwards, Colorado, received
Iowa Senator, and President of the Iowa Senate, Republican Jake Chapman’s family-owned business, Midwest Ambulance Service of Iowa, received $364,300 in loan forgiveness. Chapman has not (yet), publicly criticized Biden’s loan forgiveness plan. Additionally, Chapman also did not respond to a request seeking comment and his tweets are protected. But given that he’s often criticized the Biden administration on everything from spending to mask mandates and more, it’s safe to leave this information in.
On August 24, after the Biden loan forgiveness plan was announced, State Senator Jesse Green, a Republican from Harcourt, Iowa, posted an image on his Facebook page that showed a student in a graduation gown looking at a poster board. The poster board, reads, “1. You took out a loan. 2. Pay it back.” Green posted the image with the comment, “This is such a simple issue. Responsibility and accountability is almost gone in education.” Green’s bio states he sometimes teaches at Community Christian School in Fort Dodge, which received, $92,520 in PPP loan forgiveness. His constituents tell me his wife also work at that school.
Correction: An earlier version of this newsletter incorrectly identified Ty Rushing of Iowa Starting Line as the reporter who first reported on Ashley Hinson’s husband’s PPP loan. While Ty is great, it was Laura Belin who first reported that information.
Local journalism is being decimated, especially in Iowa, where reporters are often struggling to keep up with the fire hose of news. The result is often misinformation. If you support independent journalism and writing like this, please consider becoming a paid subscriber.