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‘Big Government’ Critics Benefited From Government’s Coronavirus Aid

Longtime anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist famously has said that the government should be small enough to drown in a bathtub. But turns out he’s not above benefitting from tax money to help keep his small-government advocacy efforts afloat.

On Monday, documents released by the Treasury Department disclosed that an ancillary arm of Norquist’s organization Americans for Tax Reform was among the millions of recipients of loans under the Paycheck Protection Program. The massive relief scheme provided loans to small businesses and enterprises that could eventually turn into grants if they keep their workers on payrolls during the coronavirus crisis.

Jonathan Ernst / Reuters
For decades, Grover Norquist has crusaded against “big government.” But in the hard times created by the coronavirus pandemic, a group that’s an offshoot of his Americans for Tax Reform organization benefited from a massive government relief program.

The Americans for Tax Reform Foundation ― whose mission is to “educate taxpayers on the true cost of government … and costly government programs” ― received between $150,000 and $350,000 in aid, according to Treasury.

The parent group ― the Americans for Tax Reform ― sought to draw a legal distinction between its advocacy work and that of the foundation. The parent group also noted that it never directly opposed the PPP program.

“Americans for Tax Reform Foundation (ATRF) — a legally and financially separate research and educational 501(c)3 — was badly hurt by the government shutdown,” the group said in a statement. “It applied for and received a loan and has as a consequence been able to maintain its employees without laying anyone off. ATRF does not engage in lobbying.”

Norquist’s group wasn’t the only Washington advocacy organization that received federal aid under the program. Others associated with liberal causes did as well. And there’s nothing necessarily wrong about keeping people employed during a pandemic ― that was the whole point of PPP. But complaining about government spending on the one hand while directly benefiting from it on the other is just a little too rich.

Even more rich? The aid funneled to the California-based think tank dedicated to advancing the philosophy of Ayn Rand, the libertarian hero and author of “Atlas Shrugged”:

The Ayn Rand Institute received a PPP loan of between $350K and $1 million

— Pat Fitzgerald (@PatFitzgerald23) July 6, 2020

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