MINOT, N.D. — The story of White Coke is a fascinating one.
Georgy Zhukov was Marshal of the Soviet Union during World War II when his counterpart in the Allied Forces, Supreme Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower, introduced him to Coca-Cola.
He loved the drink, but since the Soviet Union was a country built upon ideological zealotry, he couldn't very well be seen sipping a product that's an icon of American capitalism. So Zhukov, as so many ideologues do, decided the rules were for the peasants and gave himself an exemption. He requested and received, with some help from President Harry S. Truman, a clear version of Coca-Cola that was bottled to look like Vodka, allowing him to drink the refreshing fizzy beverage while the Soviet proletariat stood in bread lines.
I was thinking about that story while reading about the PPP loans taken out by a North Dakota ideological zealot. Rep. Rick Becker is Bismarck-based plastic surgeon and the founder of the North Dakota Legislature's Bastiat Caucus. He spends most of his time posturing as a paragon of limited government virtue. He describes himself as "a rising national star of the freedom movement" and has built a small cult of personality around himself on the premise that he and his fellow travelers are the real conservatives and everyone else is but a poseur.
According to a federal database, Loan #4709707009 was issued in April 2020 to Becker Plastic Surgery LLC in Bismarck, North Dakota. The amount was $42,700 and it reportedly helped retain five jobs.
Loan #4673847002 was issued in April 2020 to Ricky C. Becker MD. The amount was $20,800 and it reportedly retained one job. Presumably Becker's.
Loan #4714697002 was issued in April 2020 to Humpback Sally's LLC, a hospitality company Becker is the registered agent for (he owns some bars and restaurants in Bismarck). The amount was $110,700, and it reportedly retained 25 jobs. The current status is paid back or forgiven.
A second loan, #5834808407 was issued to Humpback Sallay's LLC in February 2021. The amount was $80,373, and it's an ongoing loan. It reportedly helped retain 12 employees.
According to The New York Times, as of August about 80% of the PPP loans given out in 2020 have been forgiven by the federal government. It's not clear from the federal database if Becker's completed loans were forgiven or paid back.
For what it's worth, the eligibility guidelines for PPP loan forgiveness are quite ... forgiving.
There's nothing wrong with getting a PPP loan, I should note at this point.
Millions of Americans received them.
I'm glad Becker found help for himself and his employees.
There is something wrong, however, with an ideological zealot who spends most of his time throwing rhetorical rocks at people he deems not sufficiently conservative getting hundreds of thousands of dollars in government loans.
By way of illustrating this hypocrisy, consider that for next week's special session, Rep. Becker has introduced a bill that would use state tax incentives as leverage against businesses implementing vaccine mandates for employees or customers.
"A person may not claim a state or local tax incentive or tax exemption ... if the person requires, or at any time during the taxable period required, the person's employee, independent contractor, or customer or other recipient of goods or services to be vaccinated against COVID-19," his bill states.
Becker, who took government loans for himself and his business, is seeking to use tax incentives as a tool to manipulate how private business owners run their private businesses.
I wonder how he'd feel if some lawmaker proposed a bill that would use his receipt of a PPP loan to, say, mandate that he and his employees be vaccinated?
Nor is this the first time Becker's personal actions have failed to live up to his public convictions.
Becker was first elected to office in 2012. He's on the sponsoring committee for a ballot measure that seeks to limit the cumulative amount of time anyone can serve in a legislative seat to no more than eight years. If the measure passes, though, all the time Becker has already served in the House wouldn't count against him. The clock would start when the measure was enacted, giving him, potentially, another eight years in office on top of what he's already served.
Rules for thee, but not for me.
Coca-Cola for the Soviet elite, and breadlines for the proles.
We can have a debate about whether Becker's doctrinaire approach to public policy is good for North Dakota. That's just plain old politics.
What's clear, however, is that Becker isn't all that consistent in his ideology. Especially, it seems, when it comes to his private interests. That's not something voters should countenance in their elected leaders.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at email@example.com.