"We Built It:" Government support behind Mitt Romney's business examples in Colorado
In this week's feature, "Purple Haze," we take a close look at why all eyes are on Colorado in the presidential race, just in time for the Republican National Convention in Florida. An issue Mitt Romney's campaign has pushed here -- one that was also the RNC's theme last night -- is the "We Built It" refrain, criticizing the president for saying, "If you've got a business, you didn't build that." Romney's Colorado team jumped on the quote in July and brought out small business owners who said they were responsible for their success, not the government.
Big photos below.
Turns out, though, that two of them have a history of government support.
The debate around small businesses and the government support they get has been an important part of the race nationally and locally. At the heart of the back-and-forth are arguments about the size of the government and its role in turning around the economy. Like all campaign slogans, it deserves close scrutiny. And information sent to us by a Democratic tipster, which we verified, shows that in Colorado, some of the "We Built It" small businesses promoted by the Romney campaign have received government help.
The people behind the businesses don't deny this -- but they argue that the various forms of government support account for a very small amount of financial help and shouldn't imply that public dollars helped them actually build their businesses. They also criticize the president for regulations they say have hurt their businesses.
Before we get to those Colorado businesses, let's review the quote that started the whole thing. Here's a video and short excerpt of the line from that speech in July:
If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business -- you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn't get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.
Read more of the speech in context on Factcheck.org, which notes that the president was talking about government assisting businesses with government-funded education, infrastructure and research, among other things. Later in his speech, he says, "The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together."
The part where he says "you didn't build that" has since become a common phrase at Romney rallies and events and has even inspired slogans on campaign gear for the Republican Party. Obama's campaign has repeatedly said that the comment was taken out of context and sent an e-mail yesterday in response to the RNC in Florida, with links to various articles arguing that attacks on this comment have been misleading.
In Colorado, the local RNC and Romney campaign held events in Arvada and Colorado Springs, with representatives of five local businesses at each responding to the comment, according to press releases. We later received an e-mail from a Colorado Democratic source who wishes to remain anonymous that outlined various evidence of government support for two of the companies: Johnson Storage and Moving, based in Centennial, and Angler's Covey, based in Colorado Springs.
For Angler's Covey, a fly fishing retail and guide service store, the source pointed us to records showing that the business received a $250,000 small business administration loan, "To Aid Small Businesses Which Are Unable To Obtain Financing In The Private Credit Marketplace," back in 1999. The SBA loan is also mentioned in this Westside Pioneer article and apparently helped the company expand and move to a bigger, more convenient location.
Continue reading for the company's response to these loans.