Derrick Van Orden called COVID-19 relief a ‘disaster,’ but the group he works with got $170k in aid

By: - June 29, 2021 7:00 am
Derrick Van Orden

Derrick Van Orden is running a second time against Democratic Rep. Ron Kind. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Republican Derrick Van Orden was outspoken in his opposition of federal COVID-19 relief passed into law earlier this year. Yet that opposition did not extend to federal aid of more than $170,000 that a nonprofit organization he works with received in May 2020. 

Van Orden, who is running for the second time to unseat Democratic Rep. Ron Kind in Wisconsin’s 3rd Congressional District, spent much of this winter criticizing the aid provided in the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) that was passed by a Democratically held Congress and signed by President Joe Biden. 

Almost immediately after he was narrowly beaten by Kind last fall, Van Orden announced he’d be running again in 2022. But, he has faced heavy criticism for spreading the lie that Donald Trump actually won the 2020 election. Van Orden also went to the Jan. 6 rally in Washington D.C. that ultimately ended with an insurrection on the U.S. Capitol.

For months, Van Orden had acknowledged he attended the rally but insisted he did not enter Capitol grounds. Yet social media posts show him taking photos in locations that would have required him to cross police barricades, the Daily Beast reported.

Van Orden also used about $4,000 in campaign cash to fund transportation and lodging in D.C. for himself, his wife and a staff member, according to the Daily Beast report.

The rescue package, which was signed into law in March, sent billions of dollars to Wisconsin. In the 3rd District, La Crosse received $21 million, Eau Claire received $13 million and Onalaska received $2 million. 

Under the control of Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, much of the ARPA money sent to Wisconsin has been allocated directly to helping businesses recover from the pandemic. Most recently, Evers announced he would be directing $140 million toward helping the state’s tourism and entertainment industries recover from the past year when concerts were cancelled and tourism was slowed to a trickle. 

The ARPA also allowed Evers to establish a small business recovery grant program that is disbursing $420 million to as many as 84,000 businesses across the state

Yet as the bill was working its way through Congress, Van Orden called it a “disaster,” “wasteful” and a “bribery bill.” Even earlier this month, Van Orden continued to criticize the bill — despite an improving economic outlook since the passage of the ARPA. 

“Washington Democrats like Ron Kind forced through a massive spending bill that is preventing businesses from finding employees and creating a wave of inflation that is hurting the wallets of American families,” Van Orden’s campaign told the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram

In his frequent criticisms of the ARPA, Van Orden accuses Kind — who tries to maintain a moderate image in a purple district — of following in lock step with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. 

Van Orden’s opposition to the ARPA — and the HEROES Act, which was passed by House Democrats last year and formed the backbone of the ARPA package — came months after the passage of the CARES Act. 

The CARES Act, a $2.2 trillion economic stimulus package that was passed by a Democratic House and Republican Senate, was signed by President Donald Trump in March 2020. The CARES Act, among other provisions such as supplemented unemployment benefits and rent relief, created the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which helped businesses continue paying their employees despite government-mandated shutdowns and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) which provides loans to small businesses, farms and nonprofits to help cover operating expenses. 

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Van Orden supported this legislation which, aside from being passed by his party, aided an organization he works with, the Rosie Network. 

The Rosie Network is a nonprofit organization that provides small business training and mentorship to veterans and their families. In 2019, according to its most recent tax documents, it took in more than $370,000 in revenue — most of which was spent on salaries and benefits for its employees. 

In May 2020, The Rosie Network received a PPP loan of $21,600 to help pay its employees in the immediate economic shock of the COVID-19 pandemic. Later that month, the organization received a $150,000 loan through the EIDL program. 

Van Orden sits on the Rosie Network’s board

“As the CEO and Founder of The Rosie Network, the decision to accept the PPP funds was made as an operational one by myself,” Rosie Network CEO and founder Stephanie Brown says. “It was not a board-level decision. Derrick Van Orden was not consulted on this decision.  The PPP loan referred to was used within the guidelines as set forth by the Small Business Administration.”
“As a non-profit organization serving the military community, we do not endorse any political views,” she continues. “We serve, honor and respect our military members, veterans and military families.”

Even though a group he works with directly benefited from federal COVID-19 relief, Van Orden says he supported the CARES Act because it was necessary to prop up the economy right after the pandemic started, but that later bills did more harm than good.

“There is a reason why every Republican voted against the so-called American Rescue Plan,” Van Orden told the Wisconsin Examiner in a statement. “It is simply a partisan liberal wishlist with only 9% of the money going to COVID relief. Every COVID relief bill prior to this was bipartisan, but Ron Kind caved to radical progressives in Washington and voted for a reckless spending bill that funds blue state bailouts, pays people not to work with unemployment benefits that are hurting small businesses, and burdens hard working Americans by driving up inflation across the country. This partisan bill was about advancing Pelosi’s radical progressive agenda and as usual Ron Kind caved to her.”

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Henry Redman
Henry Redman

Henry Redman is a staff reporter for the Wisconsin Examiner who focuses on covering Wisconsin's towns and rural areas. He previously covered crime and courts at the Daily Jefferson County Union. A lifelong Midwesterner, he was born in Cleveland, Ohio and graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a degree in journalism in May 2019.

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