Politics

Kari Lake Bashes Federal Loan Forgiveness. Unless It’s Hers

Kari Lake criticized a Democratic proposal to forgive some student loan debt without noting that her family benefited from its own federal debt forgiveness.
Kari Lake criticized a Democratic proposal to forgive some student loan debt without noting that her family benefited from its own federal debt forgiveness. Gage Skidmore
Editor's note: This article was updated on August 31 to correctly identify Josselyn Berry.

Kari Lake just wants to be left a loan.

The Republican nominee for Arizona governor publicly opposed recent federal action to provide relief for student loan borrowers across the country. But she also benefited from a federal loan in April 2020 that was later forgiven as part of the Paycheck Protection Program.

That’s not stopping her from likening loan forgiveness to robbery when the money is going to college students saddled with debt, instead of her husband's video production company that does work for her political campaign. It’s a classic case of rules for thee but not for me.

Last week, Lake parroted the fledgling trope of her fellow Trump-endorsed, self-styled “MAGA patriots” after President Joe Biden proposed cancelling up to $10,000 in federal student debt for individual borrowers making less than $125,000 per year.

The trope: Bailing out people mired in student debt equals stealing from blue-collar workers and upstanding college grads who have already settled their debts. The underlying sentiment from conservative dissidents centers around the right-wing pillars of personal responsibility and sacrifice.

Many critics of student loan cancellation believe that borrowers are responsible to pay back the loan under any means necessary. But several Republican critics of Biden's proposal, including Lake, failed to mention their own forgiven federal loans.

The former Fox 10 Phoenix anchor retweeted a Fox News clip posted by the Republican National Committee on August 24 with the caption, "The people that already paid their student loans, they don't get anything out of this deal." In her own caption, she wrote, “Democrats like Joe Biden and Katie Hobbs will rob you blind and expect you to thank them for it.”

Hobbs, Arizona's current secretary of state, is Lake's Democratic opponent in the general election in November.

Leading pollster FiveThirtyEight predicts Hobbs is a three-point favorite to win. Lake’s stock fell last week after she endorsed a gay-bashing antisemite for Oklahoma State Senate. He lost fantastically.

Borrowing Trouble

The White House tendered a biting defense of its student loan cancellation plan on Twitter, throwing down the gauntlet on Republican lawmakers, one by one, who have had their own PPP loans forgiven.

Phoenix-based ZenVideo's PPP loan of $5,663 was forgiven, public records show. ZenVideo is owned by Lake's husband Jeff Halperin and is held through the Halperin Family Living Trust. Lake is a trustee of the living trust, according to her campaign financial disclosure.

The Paycheck Protection Program was designed to provide small businesses with funds to cover payroll costs. Records show ZenVideo doesn’t employ any staff other than Halperin.

Federal Election Commission records have shown that ZenVideo received nearly $2,200 from Lake’s campaign. Halperin exists by Lake’s side in perpetuity, filming video clips at all her nutty parties and posting them to social media.

Democrats pounced on the hypocritical nature of Lake's criticism of the student debt relief proposal.

“Does Kari Lake consider it a government handout when she had her own PPP loan forgiven?” Josselyn Berry, spokesperson for the Arizona Democratic Party, asked in an interview with Phoenix New Times. “Or does she reserve her criticism only for hard-working Arizonans who are trying to keep their businesses and households afloat?”

The Lake campaign did not respond to numerous New Times requests seeking comment.
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Elias Weiss is a staff writer at the Phoenix New Times. A native of Charlotte, North Carolina, he reported first for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and was editor of the Chatham Star-Tribune in Southern Virginia, where he covered politics and law. In 2020, the Virginia Press Association awarded him first place in the categories of Government Writing and Breaking News Writing for non-daily newspapers statewide.
Contact: Elias Weiss