Small Business United v. Citizens United

Two years ago on January 21, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its ruling in the controversial Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case. In a divided 5-4 decision, the majority ruled that corporations are free to spend unlimited sums of money in our country’s elections.

There’s been plenty of debate about what this ruling means for our elections and for deep-pocketed special interests. But there’s been virtually no attention paid to what it means for small businesses, or what small business owners think about the Citizens United decision. That is, until now…

On January 18, the Main Street Alliance partnered with allies at the American Sustainable Business Council and Small Business Majority to release results relating to Citizens United from an independent poll of 500 small business owners nationwide. The poll asked small business owners whether they thought the Supreme Court’s decision was good or bad for small businesses.

So, what do small business owners think about Citizens United? Turns out, they’re not big fans. In fact, 66 percent of small business owners believe the Citizens United decision is bad for small businesses, compared to only 9 percent who think it’s good. That’s a margin of 7 to 1. Click here to read the report.

Why such strong condemnation of the Supreme Court’s ruling? In the words of Melanie Collins, owner of Melanie’s Home Childcare in Falmouth, Maine and a leader with the Maine Small Business Coalition and Main Street Alliance, “Small business owners aren’t stupid. We know who wins when corporate heavy hitters can spend all the money they want, as secretively as they want, to influence our country’s elections – and it’s not us.”

Collins added, “The Citizens United decision stacked the deck against small businesses. We’ve got to unstack that deck.”

And that’s what the Main Street Alliance is fighting to do, with an “unstack the deck” sign-on statement for small business owners about money in politics and a campaign against “dark money” – that is, contributions to third party groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that can’t be traced back to the source.

Small business owners are uniting against Citizens United.

January 18: Poll: Supreme Court Citizens United Decision Hurts Small Businesses

Two-thirds of American small business owners believe the controversial U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United v. FEC case handed down two years ago on January 21 hurts small companies, according to an independent national survey of 500 small business owners released on January 18 by the Main Street Alliance, the American Sustainable Business Council, and Small Business Majority.

Click here to download the survey report "Small Businesses Reject Role of Money in Politics; View Citizens United Decision as Bad for Business"

Click here to read the press release from MSA, SBM, and ASBC

Poll: Small Business Owners Say Citizens United Decision is Bad for Small Business

Two-thirds of American small business owners believe the controversial U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United v. FEC case handed down two years ago on January 21 hurts small companies, according to an independent national survey of 500 small business owners released on January 18 by the Main Street Alliance, the American Sustainable Business Council, and Small Business Majority.

Click here to download the survey report "Small Businesses Reject Role of Money in Politics; View Citizens United Decision as Bad for Business"

Click here to read the press release from MSA, SBM, and ASBC

MSA and SBM File Brief to Supreme Court in Defense of Affordable Care Act

The Main Street Alliance and Small Business Majority filed a "friend of the court" brief to the United States Supreme Court presenting a small business case for upholding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Click here to download a PDF copy of the brief.

All I Want for the State of the Union is...

A Small Business Plan for Jobs: 10 Do's and Don'ts

The Main Street Alliance released an open letter to President Obama outlining a set of small business priorities for supporting small businesses, creating jobs, and bolstering local economies.

The letter includes a list of 10 "do's and don'ts," highlighting five policies that will help small businesses and debunking five that won't.

An excerpt of the letter reads:

"The single most important thing small business owners need to create more jobs is more customers – more demand for our products and services. Not weaker standards for our air and water that jeopardize the health of our workers and customers. Not toothless watchdogs for the financial sector actors that brought down the economy in 2008. Not more tax loopholes and ‘holidays’ for corporate tax dodgers that drain our country’s resources and tilt the playing field against small businesses. What we need most of all is more customers."

Click here to read the full letter.

Main Street Takes on Wall Street… and Wins

Big bank lobbyists have been putting on a full-court press in Washington, DC to roll back components of the financial overhaul passed last year and free Wall Street to go back to the "business as usual" that led to the financial crisis in 2008.

The bankers are gunning for the new Consumer Protection Bureau and attempting to block the confirmation of a director for the bureau. They're lobbying to starve regulatory agencies of the funds needed to enforce the provisions of the new law. And on the Senate floor on June 8, they went after small businesses with an amendment to delay (read, kill) new rules limiting debit swipe fees. But this time, the bankers lost.

The bank-backed amendment needed 60 votes to pass, and it fell six votes short on Wednesday (see the roll call of the vote – no party line vote here, unless you draw the lines of a new "Party of Wall Street"). This vote was a big win for small businesses, stopping big banks and the card company duopoly from walking away with an extra $1 billion a month in exorbitant swipe fees.

Leaders in the Main Street Alliance led the charge of small businesses fighting back against the banks' lobbying onslaught. While the inside-the-beltway small business lobbies (like the NFIB) sat on the sidelines, MSA business owners made calls, signed letters, and organized their business contacts to make their voices heard.

Mike Craighill, owner of the Soup and Such restaurants in Billings, Montana wrote an op-ed in The Hill on June 9 recapping the victory. Mike wrote:

As the owner of two family restaurants that cater to a daytime business clientele, I know a thing or two about serving up a good lunch. And, in the run-up to Wednesday's Senate vote on the amendment to delay new rules limiting debit swipe fees, I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that big banks were going to eat our lunch… again.

But, to my surprise and delight – and thanks in large part to small business owners from Maine to Iowa to Washington State who contacted their Senators and make their voices heard - Wall Street bankers didn't win this time. They didn't eat our lunch.

MSA leader Mary Noel Black, owner of The UPS Store at Citiplace in Baton Rouge, Louisiana had this to say reflecting on the significance of the vote:

The massive transfer of wealth from our local economies, from places like Greeley, Colorado and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to the Manhattan penthouses of bank executives has been slowed. This vote confirms that the new swipe fee limits will move forward, and small businesses will be freed from exorbitant interchange fees that have hindered our ability to grow and create jobs.

The Senate's vote also confirmed that it’s possible to stand up to the big banks and win… and that small businesses banding together and making their voices heard are a force to be reckoned with.

How Much Does Employee Turnover Really Cost Your Business?

Turnover is costly. Despite the harm it can cause to the bottom line, many businesses do not actually know how much turnover costs them. Policies that support workers, such as paid sick days, a fair minimum wage, investments in workforce training, and work sharing, can help decrease turnover and reduce these costs.

The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) and Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) have developed a handy online turnover calculator to estimate how much turnover actually costs a business.

Click here to check out the CLASP/CEPR turnover calculator.

Small Business Owners Aren’t Buying the Anti-Regulatory Hype

The House of Representatives is expected to consider a bill shortly that would bring about a major overhaul of rule-making processes that set rules for the financial sector, public health and environmental standards, workplace healthy and safety, and other public safeguards.

The Regulatory Accountability Act (or RAA) is being promoted on the pretext of helping small businesses. But real small business owners aren’t buying the anti-regulatory hype. Indeed, in poll after poll and interview after interview, small business owners say what they need to grow and create jobs is more customers, not deregulation.

We asked leaders in the Main Street Alliance network to share their take on the Regulatory Accountability Act and the broader debate about cutting regulations in the name of small business. Here’s what some of them had to say:


Kelly Conklin co-owns Foley-Waite Associates, a custom woodworking business in Bloomfield, New Jersey:

“The Regulatory Accountability Act is just the next example of attempting to shift risk and shift costs from big businesses to small businesses. This bill would gut rules and standards that protect small businesses, the communities where we live and work, and the customers we rely on for our livelihoods.

“I’d like to know, how will rolling back financial standards and allowing another financial crisis help small businesses? How will rolling back environmental rules and allowing another BP spill help small businesses? To hear these proposals being marketed in the name of helping small businesses, it’s just infuriating. This is small business identity theft – using our good name to push an agenda that benefits narrow special interests at our expense.

“Once again the political ambitions of a few are being placed above economic recovery, environmental common sense and the health and safety of small business owners, our employees, and the communities we serve.”


Jim Houser owns Hawthorne Auto Clinic in Portland, Oregon:

“These attacks on basic regulatory standards are misguided at best. They completely miss – or ignore – the fact that standards and regulations create jobs and support innovation.

“Just look at my industry, auto repair. In our sector, smart, focused automobile emission standards protect the air we breathe, provide needed employment for the nation’s repair technicians who keep our vehicles running clean, and promote innovations that help U.S. companies be on the cutting edge of new automotive technologies.”


Garry Ault owns All Makes Vacuum in Boise, Idaho:

“I’ve been trying to sell my small business and retire for over a year. I had to cut the selling price back to the point where I would make only $1,500 more than I paid for my business in 1980. Why? Because of the policies of the last 20 years that deregulated our financial sector, encouraged reckless gambling on Wall Street, and precipitated the 2008 financial crisis and this Second Great Depression small businesses are struggling to pull through today.

“Deregulation is a scam – it helps the big guys at the little guy’s expense. Our politicians have got to know that by now, and if they do then there’s just no excuse for pushing this agenda that’s going to hurt small businesses even more.”


Melanie Collins owns Melanie’s Home Childcare in Falmouth, Maine:

“Deregulation that helps narrow, big business interests – like banks, insurers, and oil companies – has the reverse effect on small businesses, who are the majority of our job creators. Compromising environmental protections and the ability to maintain healthy communities with a healthy customer base is counterproductive to small business job creation and an economically vibrant future.

“What small businesses need are customers – Americans with spending money in their pockets – not deregulation that gives big corporations free reign to cut corners, use their market power at our expense, and force even more small businesses to lay people off and close up shop.”


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