New poll shows small businesses believe our current campaign finance system puts large corporations at a competitive advantage; entrepreneurs support significant reforms to level the playing field between small employers and big business.
Small business owners have a lot on their plates. From keeping customers happy to making payroll each week, they have more than enough concerns to keep them busy. Unfortunately, as our electoral system increasingly falls under the influence of big money, small business owners have yet another issue to worry about -- their growing disenfranchisement from the electoral process.
Money played a huge role in the 2014 midterm elections, which cost nearly $3.7 billion -- up from the 2010 elections, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Deep-pocketed corporations -- and the special interest groups they support -- shelled out hundreds of millions to elect friendly candidates to office and push policies that help their bottom line. But small businesses have limited resources, which means they can't compete with large businesses when it comes to money in politics.
Small business owners are feeling the impact of this exclusion. Just ask Rebecca Zemans, owner of Rebecca Zemans Jewelry in Chicago. "Our current campaign finance laws benefit deep-pocketed corporations, which means that elected officials hear more from big business than small businesses like mine. Common-sense campaign finance reforms would improve our political process so that the voices of everyone, not just big business, can be heard."
According to a new scientific opinion poll of small business owners from Small Business Majority, Zemans isn't alone in her concern that big business is drowning out small companies in the political process. The poll found an overwhelming 77 percent of small employers believe big business has a significant impact on the political process, while only 24 percent feel small business has a significant impact.
Given these sentiments, it's hardly a surprise the poll also found that small business owners are strongly supportive of major campaign finance reforms. Seven in 10 small business owners are in favor of significant changes to how we finance our campaigns, while only 4 percent say that no changes are needed.
What types of changes do small business owners want? There is particularly strong support for publicly-financed campaigns, with 85 percent of entrepreneurs in favor of switching to an electoral system financed only by small contributions from voters and limited public funds. This change would prevent well-moneyed special interests from buying elections.
Terri Moore, owner of My Old World Bakery in Columbus, Ohio, backed up this sentiment. "Our public policy should reflect the interests of everyone, not just the interests of wealthy corporations. We need common sense campaign finance reforms to ensure that community members and small businesses have an equal say in the political process."
Increased transparency in campaign funding was also a key issue for small business owners. An indisputable 93 percent support laws requiring special interest groups to publicly disclose where their money is coming from, which would ensure that any hidden agendas are out in the open.
It's important to note that these opinions bridged partisan divides. Of poll respondents, 48 percent identified as Republican, 32 percent as Democrat and 14 percent as independent or other.
The bottom line is our current electoral process isn't working for small firms. As powerful and well-funded special interest groups gain increasing influence over our political system, small businesses are being left behind. This means public policy isn't reflecting the concerns of our primary job creators -- and that's bad news for our economy, which depends on small firms to innovate and create jobs.
If we want to ensure that small businesses can continue to grow and thrive, then we need to take a hard look at our electoral system. It's time to level the playing field so the voices of small businesses are heard.