Rep. Steve King (R-IA) has enthusiastically embraced the Romney campaign myth that Obama attributes businesses’ success to government, exemplified by the RNC slogan “We Built It.” When it comes to his own construction business, however, it seems that King did not in fact build it. Salon reports that the construction company King prides himself on building “up from one bulldozer” was in fact sustained by more than $1.66 million in government contracts between 1994 and 2011:
But, as King now acknowledges, government contracts were a key part of his business going back some time. In 1987, he sued a client who had not paid him. An affidavit King filed includes a letter the future congressman sent to a customer in 1985 requesting payment. Explaining his urgency, King wrote at the time, “as you are aware, we are in a very depressed farm economy and my only other market for my works is contract work from various government agencies.”
Documents show that King’s company worked regularly for various local governments throughout the 1990s and 2000s. In 1994, he demolished a firehouse for the City of Odebolt for $15,500. In 1998, he took about $82,000 from the same city for a memorial walk. In 2002, the company made $64,000 from Crawford County to stabilize a building, followed a few months later by a $141,000 contract with the City of Battle Creek for wastewater treatment improvements.
The next year, King was elected to Congress and his son took over the company, taking in at least 10 other municipal contracts through 2011 worth up to $200,000 each for everything from road construction to water treatment improvements. Altogether, from the firehouse demolition in 1994 to through a grading job for a local utility last year, King Construction made at least $1,665,000 in government contracts.
When asked about his company and its substantial government assistance, King told Salon, “I built it. I built it on low-bid — both private and public — contracts. I created jobs and saved the taxpayers money on every road I built.”
King is just the latest Republican whose anti-government rhetoric is tripped up by a personal experience of how important government assistance can be to business owners. Even vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) family business relied on government contracts, while almost every small business featured by the Romney campaign has had some financial help from the government.