Feathered Bastard

Goldwater Institute Feeds from Tax-Exempt Trough While Decrying Cost of Medicaid Expansion

When the Goldwater Institute isn't "lending" $1.9 million to some fatcat on its board or suing the state government over a fish-foot-sucking cosmetic practice, it's arguing against the evils of expanding Arizona's Medicaid program so as to cover hundreds of thousands of poor people and pump billions in the state's economy.

See also: -Goldwater Institute "Lends" $1.9 Million to Rich Guy on Its Board -Using Feet-Eating Fish to Perform Pedicures Isn't a Constitutional Right, Judge Rules

I recently ran across "Top Ten Reasons to Decline Medicaid Expansion in Arizona," penned by GI's "healthcare policy analyst," which talks about how much it's supposedly going to cost the state to take money from the federal government in order to implement Governor Jan Brewer's proposal.

As you might expect from an institution that owes its existence to its federal 501(c)(3) status, this list is irony-deficient in the extreme, particularly "number ten" on its list, which states, "There is no such thing as free federal money," since "'free federal money' is borrowed money which taxpayers must pay back."

Really? What about all of the tax-exempt donations that go to fuel the Goldwater Institute, leaving it with net assets as of the end of 2011 of $4.8 million?

No doubt all of that tax-exempt moolah pays for some pretty good medical benefits for GI's shills.

You also can be certain no one working at this 501(c)(3) nonprofit is going broke.

GI's IRS Form 990 for 2011 shows that GI's top five executives rake in a total of almost $1 million per annum in salaries and benefits. Of those five, Clint Bolick, GI's "director of litigation" makes more than $300,000 a year, and GI's president/CEO Darcy Olsen pulls in more than $268,000 a year.

For what? For arguing against those terrible government entitlements, save for the government incentive that keeps GI's execs rolling in dough like pigs in the proverbial ordure.

Certainly, GI is not a "charity," in the sense that it helps the needy. Rather, it's more akin to a government subsidy for GI's lawyers who sue the government -- i.e., you and me, dummy -- and make sure we foot the legal bill if they win.

Meaning that, in a roundabout way, we pay these geniuses to file headline-garnering lawsuits about toe-sucking fish.

But it's worse than that, as a report from the Center for Media and Democracy recently indicated, when it pointed out that the Goldwater Institute has "loaned" close to $2 million to Shamrock Foods Co., a privately held company, owned by one of GI's board members, Norman McClelland.

Sweetheart deal? Nah, according to GI, it's just a prudent investment.

GI has no problem arguing against the use of public money in taxpayer-approved schemes such as the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission's now-defunct matching funds program.

On that issue, I happen to agree with them. I don't want scumbag politicians getting free money. No way, no how.

But neither do I want the taxpayers propping up pseudo-conservative think tanks such as the Goldwater Institute.

Because unlike Barry Goldwater and his forebears, GI is not a beneficiary of nor a contributor to the almighty system of capitalism.

Instead, it is the beneficiary of what I call "welfare for nonprofits": a 501(c)(3) status, which allows donors to write off their contributions and lets GI avoid the tax man.

An article last year in The Economist noted that "the total cost to the federal government in 2012 of charitable tax breaks will be $39.6 billion, rising to $51.6 billion in 2014."

The piece, "Sweetened Charity," was subtitled, "The idea that the state should subsidize giving to good causes is resilient, but not easily justified."

That's assuming you'd regard GI as a "good cause." Which, if you're Shamrock Foods, it no doubt is.

But if you're a single adult in need of an organ transplant, not so much. Because. according to the aforementioned top ten list from GI, "There is no rush because a state can choose to expand Medicaid at any time."

That's number nine on the list.

Personally, I'd like to see the sassy satraps of the Goldwater Institute get a dose of their own medicine.

No more freebies. Kick Clint Bolick, Darcy Olsen, and all the rest off the tax-exempt gravy train and make them get real jobs in the for-profit sector.

That's the way capitalism is supposed to work. If they don't like it, well, there's always North Korea, Venezuela, or Cuba, which boast state-supported industries aplenty they can work for.

America: Love it or leave it.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons