Exposed: "Small Business" Group Just a Front for "Big Business" Interests
New watchdog website shows how secretly funded NFIB exploits sympathy for small business owners to push corporate-friendly agenda
As the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), a little-examined business lobbying group, floods millions of dollars into this year’s elections, the Center for Media and Democracy is launching a new website (www.NFIBexposed.org) to shine a light on the group’s secret funding and partisan efforts. NFIB, the leading plaintiff in the lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act nicknamed “Obamacare,” has received $3.7 million from Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, and as disclosed on this new website, NFIB's legal arm received $1.15 million in 2010 from Donors Trust, a major donor to the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity Foundation.
NFIB failed to disclose the sources of these and other large donations amounting to over $10 million in undisclosed six-figure donations from 2010-2011. This raises serious questions about how NFIB is representing small businesses and the true nature of the group’s agenda. www.NFIBexposed.org will be a growing resource for reporters and the public. It will include regularly updated information about NFIB's state and federal lobbying activities, its financial disclosures and political spending, and its candidate endorsements.
“Small business owners deserve to have a voice, but NFIB doesn’t speak for me or other small business owners I know,” said Rick Poore, owner of a custom screen-printing business in Lincoln, Nebraska with 33 employees. “NFIB uses the name of small business to advance an agenda that helps big corporate interests, but actually hurts the interests of real small businesses like mine.”
“With dark money exerting extraordinary influence on elections and policy, it’s crucial to pull back the curtain on groups like NFIB and help reveal what interests are pulling the strings behind the scenes,” said Lisa Graves, Executive Director of Center for Media and Democracy. “What we know about NFIB’s funding and structure shows how it serves the agenda of global corporations over the interests of the small businesses it claims to represent. We also believe an IRS investigation of NFIB’s partisan political activities is warranted.” (Last summer, CMD launched a similar transparency initiative about the American Legislative Exchange Council, connecting the dots between its corporate bankrollers and extreme agenda via ALECexposed.org.)
In the last few years, NFIB gained national recognition as the lead litigant of the multi-million dollar lawsuit against Obamacare, despite the fact that many small businesses have welcomed the new law. As disclosed on the new website, a leading Americans for Prosperity Foundation funder, Donors Trust, funneled $1.15 million to NFIB's legal arm in 2010, more than covering its reported payments for outside legal services in the ACA lawsuit and casting doubt on NFIB’s claim that the legal challenge was fueled by thousands of small donors.
“NFIB has been advancing the interests of the health insurance lobby for years, plotting against health reform under Clinton and then challenging the Affordable Care Act in the courts," said Wendell Potter, former insurance company executive and author of Deadly Spin, An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR Is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans. "It makes you wonder, who's paying the bills for this work and whose interests are really being served?"
“Secrecy is not a small business value, nor is it in the interest of political integrity,” Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ-7) wrote in a recent letter to the IRS requesting an investigation into NFIB’s tax-exempt status because of the partisan nature of the group’s work. “If NFIB is determined not to say where its money comes from or who its members are, we must ask what the group is hiding.” While the IRS will not confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation, facts indicate that NFIB is the focus of an inquiry.
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. Despite the group’s “non-partisan” claims, NFIB’s endorsements and financial backing overwhelmingly support Republican candidates, even though polling shows small businesses remain firmly divided in their political affiliations.
In nine of the last ten election cycles, NFIB has given 90 percent or more of its political contributions to Republican candidates. Furthermore, according to the Center for Responsive Politics’ “Heavy Hitters” donor list, NFIB is ranked third highest among all groups in the percentage of its contributions (93 percent) going to Republican candidates – a higher percentage even than Koch Industries (90 percent), Exxon Mobil (86 percent), and the National Rifle Association (82 percent).
More information about NFIB is available at www.NFIBexposed.org.
Follow the conversation at #NFIBexposed.