Assembly Speaker, who rails against government assistance, took at least $150,000 for his company.
Three days before he convened the Assembly to pass what would be its only bill in the three months since the coronavirus pandemic hit Wisconsin, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, received up to $350,000 in federal coronavirus relief funds for his popcorn company, the Associated Press reports.
Robin J. Vos Enterprises, based in Vos’ hometown of Burlington, on April 11 received approval for between $150,000 and $350,000 from the Paycheck Protection Program, according to records released Monday by the U.S. Treasury Department.
The approval came three days before the Assembly passed the state’s coronavirus relief bill, which included a last-minute provision from Vos that made it harder for essential workers to get worker’s compensation from their employer during the pandemic.
Vos has not called the full Assembly into session once since then, even as the pandemic has worsened, the economy has entered a recession, and the nation is facing a historic protest movement for racial justice.
When asked by the Associated Press how he spent the money, Vos’ spokeswoman, Kit Beyer, provided the following answer.
“His company received one of nearly 700,000 loans given to small businesses, which allowed the company to keep its workers employed during these uncertain times,” Beyer said in an emailed statement, according to the AP.
Vos’ campaign website says his Burlington business, RoJo’s Popcorn Company, employs “more than two dozen people.”
On top of his $53,000 Legislative salary, Vos owns $3.8 million worth of rental properties in Whitewater, Knights Popcorn shop in Milwaukee, a car wash in Union Grove, and RoJo’s in Burlington. His house, on nearly six acres in Rochester, is valued at $541,000, according to Racine County land records.
The federal Paycheck Protection Program doled out $521 billion in loans, with an average amount of $107,000, according to the Washington Post. The program was heavily derided when it was discovered that many publicly traded companies, including three in Wisconsin, received the loans even though public companies were not supposed to receive the funds.
Vos has frequently railed against government assistance programs, going so far as to say last year that Democratic Gov. Tony Evers is “intent on trapping people on welfare.”
President Donald Trump’s administration long fought the release of the names of PPP loan recipients. The Monday release revealed numerous oddities, including that anti-tax activist Grover Norquist’s anti-government spending nonprofit, the Americans for Tax Reform Foundation, took between $150,000 and $350,000 from the program.
So too did large companies such as restaurant chain P.F. Chang’s and conservative news company Newsmax Media.