July 24, 2012
To be filed under “deliberate obfuscation of tax cuts on the wealthy and the health of the American middle class”: Josh Harkinson of Mother Jones reported this past Monday on who the National Federation of Independent Businesses really represents. Surprise, surprise — it turns out they are neither nonpartisan nor do they represent the majority of ”small and independent businesses” they may lead one to believe they do.
Described as a “nonprofit, nonpartisan organization” on its website, NFIB is a lobbying association with strong ties to the Republican party and particularly the Tea Party movement. Recently, you might remember the organization as the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit opposing the Affordable Care Act. Here in California, NFIB is leading the charge against Governor Brown’s “millionaire’s tax” ballot initiative Proposition 30.
Originally created in 1943 because a US Chamber of Commerce staffer felt small business owners’ interests needed representation in Washington, it has since become known as a “small business pretender” according to Frank Knapp, president of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce.
The way in which NFIB professes to faithfully advocate for “small and independent” business owners is through the Mandate, a ballot sent out eight times a year to members gain a sense of their majority consensus views. The poll results affect how the NFIB lobbies, and in theory keeps the organization’s actions closely tied to members’ interests. Of course, the Mandate is worded by NFIB officials who also write the “pro” and “con” summaries that accompany each question.
Harkinson reports that “in recent months, the biggest of all concerns has been ‘poor sales,’ suggesting that it’s the lack of consumer demand, not big government, that’s crimping the economy. So why does the NFIB continue to focus on reducing tax bills for the wealthiest Americans?” One reason for the schism between Main Street business owners and the NFIB agenda may be found in its recent funding.
Again, Harkinson reports that the NFIB has “traditionally been supported almost entirely by membership dues . . . but during the last two years, the NFIB suddenly received nearly $7 million in the form of just five contributions of $180,000 or more — not exactly the kind of money that most small business owners can afford to fork over.” The only known source of these five large donors is Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS – hardly a mom-and-pop shop — who gave nearly $4 million to NFIB allegedly to fight Obamacare.
So who does the NFIB really represent? Not the small businesses netting under $250,000 annually that it claims to. Rick Poore, owner of a 35-person screen printing shop in Nebraska and a member of Main Street Alliance, a business association alternative to NFIB, is quoted in the Mother Jones article as saying, “Give me more customers, and I will hire more people. Give me a tax break, and I will take my wife to Aruba.”
How’s that for some refreshing honesty after all the smoke and mirrors?