Steven Cohen Built Screen Machine Industries With More Than $2 Million In Government Contracts

Yes, you built it, but the U.S. government helped.

On Wednesday, yet another small business owner trotted out at the Republican National Convention as a spokesperson for the party's "We Built It" campaign was revealed to have benefited from federal funds.

MediaMatters reports that Steven Cohen, the president of an Ohio construction equipment manufacturer, who spoke at the party's national convention in Tampa on Wednesday, benefited from about $2 million in government contracts. His company, Screen Machine Industries, which provides equipment to the military and other government agencies, also received nearly $220,000 in stimulus contracts, according to a story reported last year by the Associated Press.

Cohen joins two other RNC "We Built It" speakers, Sher Valenzuela and Phil Archuletta, who grew their businesses with the help of Uncle Sam.

That entrepreneurs need a little help to succeed appears to have been President Obama's essential point in a July speech that sparked the Republican party's "We Built It" campaign, meant to highlight the independence of the country's entrepreneurs.

In his remarks, Obama pointed out that small business owners couldn't have succeeded without the help of "this unbelievable American system." What sparked fury over at Fox News and in the Romney campaign was that Obama said “Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” As the New York Times points out, the Romney campaign in an ad spliced the video to remove the part about roads and bridges. The NYT:

The resulting line — “If you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen” — makes it sound like Mr. Obama was suggeting that “somebody else” built a business.

Democrats have long cried foul, but Mr. Romney’s campaign has always refused to concede. In fact, the phrase has become perhaps the centerpiece of Mr. Romney’s campaign.

The campaign that's looking sillier by the day as more and more of the business owners chosen to speak for it are revealed to have succeeded with help from, well, "this unbelievable American system."

Last year, after his company received stimulus contracts, Cohen told the AP: "There was a tremendous amount of money that went to all sectors. It would be very hard for a Mitt Romney, or a presidential candidate from any party, to go to any manufacturer and find someone who was not directly, or indirectly, affected somehow."

Now, Cohen's main beef with the Obama administration, it seems from his short speech on Wednesday, isn't the president's comments but the federal government's "unnecessary war on coal" and strict regulations. He told a milling crowd at the RNC that business owners need a president who will protect patented inventions, guard U.S. currency and open up new markets for American products. Watch Cohen's full speech here.

Update: This story has been updated with a more detailed explanation of President Obama's remarks last month.



Republican National Convention 2012