Marking non-union voters absent

Politicians better start paying attention to a group that comprises one-third of all voters: small business owners and their employees. That's the message the National Small Business Association is sending with its new campaign, "Small Business: 70 Million Strong ... And Voting."

Despite the fact that small businesses create most of the new jobs in the United States, small business "continues to be an afterthought for many lawmakers and candidates," said NSBA President Todd McCracken.

NSBA is urging small business owners and employees to speak out as part of the overall small business community.

Public opinion polls show that small businesses are one of the few institutions viewed favorably by most Americans.

"We want to drive home the point that small business comprises 33 percent of the voting population in the U.S.," said NSBA Chair Marilyn Landis, president of Basic Business Concepts Inc. in Pittsburgh. "We want to let people know that the small business community is a force to be reckoned with."

A survey conducted on Super Tuesday by the National Federation of Independent Business found that 80 percent of small business owners thought that presidential candidates weren't adequately addressing issues that are important to them, especially health care.

NSBA wants candidates to talk more about how small businesses fit into their health care reform plans, and it wants to hear more about tax reform, access to capital and energy.

Meanwhile, the Kauffman Foundation, which promotes entrepreneurship, wants presidential candidates to explain how they would promote innovation and long-term economic growth.

It has identified several policy areas that have the greatest impact on helping innovative entrepreneurs succeed. These include: finding skilled workers, dealing with rising health care costs, re-examining the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, promoting trade, and dealing with long-run fiscal challenges like Medicare and Social Security.

Many small business owners make campaign contributions to political candidates, either individually or through trade associations. Among groups specifically representing small businesses, NFIB is the biggest player, giving $234,137 to congressional candidates so far this election cycle. Republicans received 83 percent of NFIB's money, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

NFIB's contributions pale compared with the $1 million or more given through the end of 2007 by each of the top 10 PACs in the country. These PACs include five labor unions, trial lawyers, AT&T, the American Bankers Association, the National Beer Wholesalers Association and the National Association of Realtors.

For more information, see www.nsba.biz/vote.

In other news from Capitol Hill:

* Congress didn't show home builders the love, so home builders won't show Congress the money - at least for now.

The National Association of Home Builders announced it won't make any more contributions to congressional candidates until further notice because Congress has failed to do enough to help the housing industry.

"Over the past six months, Congress and the administration have not adequately addressed the underlying economic issues that would help stabilize the housing sector and keep the economy moving forward," said NAHB President Brian Catalde.

Home builders hoped for more help than they got from the economic stimulus legislation signed into law by President Bush Feb. 13. The bill temporarily increased the conforming loan limit for loans sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which should increase the availability of mortgages in high-cost markets. But home builders wanted a two-year increase, not just one year.

The stimulus package also didn't include a provision that would have expanded the net operating loss deduction. Under current law, a business loss can be deducted from taxes paid for the past two years. Home builders wanted Congress to expand this carry-back provision to five years, so they could receive rebates on the taxes they paid during their boom years. This would have given many home builders a much-needed infusion of capital, according to NAHB.

Builders also wanted Congress to allow cities and states to issue tax-exempt mortgage bonds that could be used to refinance existing loans for troubled borrowers.

NAHB had been a major source of campaign money. In the 2006 election cycle, its PAC gave $2.9 million to congressional candidates, ranking No. 3 in contributions behind the National Association of Realtors and the National Beer Wholesalers Association, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Republicans got 73 percent of its money that cycle.

For the 2008 election, NAHB's PAC had contributed $865,800 to congressional candidates through the end of 2007. The Republicans' share fell to 55 percent. NAHB's ranking had dropped to No. 17 among PACs.

NAHB's PAC still had $1.4 million in cash on hand at the end of 2007, however, so it's not as if the housing industry's hard times had left it without money to give. For more information, see www.nahb.com


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