Earlier this summer, Palmetto Public Record told you about a right-wing front group masquerading as a policy institute called the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC is known for providing state lawmakers with all-expense paid trips to its conferences in exchange for introducing controversial, cookie-cutter bills such as voter ID and “Stand Your Ground” legislation. ALEC members then push the bills through their statehouses back home, spreading the front group’s right-wing agenda even further.
However, ALEC isn’t the only right-wing special interest group masquerading as a legitimate institution. According to good government site SourceWatch.org, a group called the National Federation of Independent Businesses uses the cover of a non-partisan small business group to push an agenda that’s friendlier to big business than Mom & Pop stores.
Small business owners run the gamut politically. For instance, 33 percent identify as Republicans, 32 percent as Democrats, and 29 percent as Independent. However, NFIB accepted a $3.7 million gift in 2010 from Crossroads GPS, a group affiliated with Republican political operative Karl Rove that overwhelmingly endorses and financially supports Republican candidates. According to new data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), in 2010 the NFIB Small Business Legal Center (SBLC) received $1.15 million from “conservative 501(c)(3) conduit group” Donors Trust, a major contributor to the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity Foundation.
Donation records dating back to 1990 show the NFIB has given nearly $100,000 to South Carolina’s congressional delegation over the past two decades. The vast majority of that money went to Republicans, in keeping with the supposedly “independent” group’s history of overwhelmingly supporting the GOP.
According to OpenSecrets.org, a third of the NFIB’s donations went to the state’s two Republican senators, Lindsey Graham ($20,000) and Jim DeMint ($11,000). Rep. Joe Wilson has received $8,000 from the group, and $7,000 went to Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) — who’s otherwise known as the Koch brothers’ “Man in Washington.” The NFIB has also given thousands to every other member of the Palmetto State’s current congressional delegation, except for a token $500 donation to Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn.
Of the candidates for local office which the NFIB has endorsed in the 2012 election, the vast majority are Republicans. “NFIB supports the candidates who support small business,” commented Ben Homeyer, state director of NFIB’s South Carolina chapter.
But despite calling itself a non-partisan supporter of small business, the Rove-backed NFIB appears to be as right-wing as ALEC. The group was one of the main opponents of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, despite many small business advocates supporting health care reform. The NFIB has even funded campaigns against paid sick leave for employees, and pushes many policies that are more friendly to large corporate interests than small businesses.
In the post-Citizens United era, it’s even easier for secret political groups such as ALEC and the NFIB to masquerade as non-partisan policy institutes. Just look at Nikki Haley’s “The Movement” political action committee, a tax-exempt 527 group that explicitly supports Republican causes and candidates. If left unchecked, these shadowy groups will continue to push agendas which may run against the very values of the groups they claim to support.