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Protesters Expose NFIB Bus Tour in Orlando

2:55 pm in Uncategorized by EllenBravo

Karl Rove, The math behind the curtain

Caricature of Karl Rove

When the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) rolled into Orlando with its “I Built My Business” bus tour, they ran into some unexpected company – a crowd of 70 local business owners, community leaders, and Orlando voters who rejected the group’s claims to be a legitimate representative of small business.  The protesters, some wearing Karl Rove masks, held signs proclaimed ‘NFIB Fibs,’ and ‘NFIB:  Karl Rove Built It,’ referring to the $3.7 million support to the group from Rove’s Crossroads GPS.

“I’m a small business owner in Orlando, and I can tell you that Karl Rove has never supported a group that represents my values, my interests, or my needs,” said Homer Hartage, CEO of Nuchia Foods Corporation, a gluten free manufacturer with 22 employees. “NFIB is using small businesses as a mask to spend Karl Rove’s millions on ideological, right-wing campaigns that have nothing to do with what it takes to run a small business in Orlando.”

While NFIB enjoys tax-exempt status and claims to be “non-partisan” and “the voice of small business,” the group has come under close media scrutiny since the launch of, an investigative website by the Center for Media and Democracy, which put a spotlight on the NFIB’s partisan agenda and special-interest funding.

Partisan Agenda

As the website discloses, NFIB’s endorsements and financial backing overwhelmingly support Republican candidates, even though polling shows small businesses remain firmly divided in their political affiliations. Recent reports show that 98 percent of NFIB’s PAC contributions to federal candidates in the 2012 election cycle have gone to Republicans and that the organization is spending millions of dollars this year in political advertising.  This includes a $2 million ad campaign supporting eight Republican Congressional candidates in competitive races.

In fact, the majority of those with NFIB at the Orlando event were associated with Rep. Daniel Webster, a Republican in a close election race with Democrat Val Demings. A woman known to the protesters asked the NFIB membership recruiter at the event about help starting her own business. The recruiter, whose card listed him as “Field Sales Representative,” told her to call once she got the business started.

The main NFIB speaker was a hedge fund owner from out of town who’s “considering expanding” his business, already located in Dallas, New York, Atlanta & New Orleans.

Secret Funding

NFIB has also come under fire for acting as a conduit for secret special interest donors. In 2010, the same year Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS made a $3.7 million grant to NFIB, the group reported spending $3.1 million on ads through Crossroads Media, LLC, Crossroads GPS’s main media firm. The group’s 990s from 2011 also reveal group donations of $850,000 and $1.6 million, but the donor names have been redacted.  This year, NFIB established a new entity, called “NFIB, The Voice of Free Enterprise,” for the express purpose of taking money from people and groups who are not small business owners.

A search of NFIB’s IRS filings also reveals more than $10 million in big-dollar donations from undisclosed sources—raising serious questions about how NFIB is representing small businesses and the true nature of the group’s agenda.

Many of the protesters were active in the fight for earned sick days in Orange County, a common sense measure NFIB strongly opposes.

“NFIB calling itself ‘independent’ and ‘non-partisan’ is a joke,” said Damien Filer, political director of Progress Florida. “This group doesn’t care about local businesses.  It’s time to start calling NFIB what it is, an integral part of the GOP’s election infrastructure.”
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Who Speaks for Small Business? Not the NFIB

12:50 pm in Uncategorized by EllenBravo

The National Federation of Independent Businesses loves to wrap itself in the flag of neighborhood Mom and Pop shops when it lobbies on Capitol Hill, but many small business owners maintain the NFIB’s agenda doesn’t address their priorities, and say the lobbying group even fights against policies that small businesses need. As Reuters recently reported, “the NFIB uses the politically valuable mantle of small business to pursue an agenda that may take its cues from elsewhere.”

Listen to Frank Knapp, president of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce, who identifies the NFIB as a “‘small-business pretender’ and ‘lapdog’ of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce” in the Reuters article.

Or take it from Freddy Castiblanco, owner of Terraza 7 Live Music, a café and music venue in Elhurst, NY. “They disguise themselves as mom and pop shops,” says Castiblanco. “But they don’t speak for me.”

Reuters details the NFIB’s record of lobbying for issues that benefit big businesses, not necessarily small ones: “Consider a widespread state tax loophole that lets big-box retailers like Wal-Mart and Home Depot transfer income to out-of-state subsidiaries. This loophole often allows the chain retailers to pay no state income tax, while small businesses do. Yet the NFIB has fought against closing such loopholes.”

Reuters also referred to New Jersey cabinetmaker J. Kelly Conklin, who in April wrote this in the Hill: “Whether we’re talking about health care or taxes (or both at the same time), NFIB always seems to side with the big fellas – big insurance, big banking, big business – not little guys like me. Why? I don’t know.”

For more information, see the piece Family Values @ Work published together with Democracy Strategies, titled: “The National Federation of Independent Business? Driving a far-right political agenda far from the needs of small business.”

As that document points out, the NFIB in 2010 received a gift of $3.7 million from Karl Rove’s group Crossroads GPS – a contribution which a Wall Street Journal opinion piece described as part of a “trial run” at what Crossroads called “funding the right,” adding that Crossroads CEO Steven Law considered the initiative “money well spent.”

The appreciation was mutual. In that same year, the NFIB reported paying more than $3 million for “advertising services” to Crossroads Media LLC, a Virginia-based firm that does media placement for American Crossroads and shares office space with a number of other Super PACs.

Figures for 2011 and 2012 are not yet public.

The NFIB has also been far from independent in its allocation of PAC money. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, nearly 94% of NFIB’s PAC contributions went to Republicans in 2010. This election cycle, the figure is closer to 98%.

NFIB leadership is deeply rooted in conservative Republican politics. The organization’s president, Dan Danner, served as deputy director in the White House Office of Public Liaison under Reagan. Chief lobbyist Susan Eckerly worked in George W. Bush’s Labor Department. And the group recently retained Mark Warren, former chief counsel of the Senate Republican Policy Committee, as a lobbyist.

Yet small business owners are much more diverse in their political views. According to a New York Times blog, in a poll of small-business owners commissioned by American Express OPEN, respondents were nearly evenly divided among those identifying as Republicans (33 percent,) Democrats (32 percent) and independent or unaffiliated (29 percent).

Who speaks for small business? Many voices – but not the NFIB.