January 16, 2020

Our Elections are Vulnerable, not only to foreign interference, but undue corporate influence as well

By Amanda Ballantyne, special to Business 4 Protecting The Election

Small businesses have already been bearing the brunt of corporate control of political-will in the United States. Now, foreign interference in our election is adding to the marginalization of the small business voice.

From consolidation and monopolization, to Amazon and other giant corporations not paying their fair share of taxes, special interests in politics are creating inequality, and hamstringing policies that would actually support our small business communities and customers. 

We can add Russian interference in our election, or that of any other foreign power, to this list of special interests that subvert small business issues and influence in our government.

Corporations have used the decade since the passage of Citizens United to create a stranglehold on the election cycle. Their undue influence over elections and outsized money in politics is clearly reflected even in the Democratic primary debates that have had almost no focus on small business.

Small business owners’ concerns about government don’t fit into easy metaphors about “big government” versus “small government.” The question isn’t the “size” of government but who government works for and who has a say in its decisions and operations. Getting to the right answer – government that works by and for working people and small business owners of all races, genders, abilities and places of origin, not solely for large corporations  – means not a more hands-off approach by government but a more active, responsive one.

With millions spent on lobbyists and corporate concentration on the rise, small businesses and their communities, who can’t (and shouldn’t) spend millions of dollars to hire lobbyists, need reforms to be able to have political counterweight to large corporations and the very rich. These lobbying pressures have led to an economy that extracts from its communities, in corporations offering low-paying jobs and gig work with no benefits, and paying less and less in taxes to support the communities where they reap their profits.

Small businesses who support an alternative vision of local investment and in paying their fair share, and who are committed to investing in people and communities can offer an alternative source of jobs and contribute to a more equitable economy.

But without reforms, those voices will be drowned out by the sea of corporate lobbying money.

We must seize this opportunity to finally pass bold, comprehensive reforms that fix our political system and secure us from undue influence of excessive domestic corporate money.

We also need to not just level the political playing field for small business against foreign governments meddling in our election. We need to kick the latter out of the game.

The House has already passed a bold, comprehensive set of election security reforms that address the issues raised in the Mueller report, including policies to limit foreign interference in our elections, as well as including public financing to empower individual small dollar donors, but they are stalled in the Senate, held up by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

A first step to repairing democracy is passing election security measures as well as the For the People Act of 2019 (HR1) which provides essential solutions to money in politics, gerrymandering, ethics abuses and voting rights barriers, measures needed to repair our currently broken democracy.

Small businesses deserve and expect, elections to be secure. From misinformation, to cyberattacks, to large donors dwarfing individual political donations and providing access to candidates, we need reforms to reassure small businesses that our elections and democracy are healthy. 

Amanda Ballantyne is the Executive Director of the Main Street Alliance, a national network of over 30,000 small business owners.

This forum is for entrepreneurs and business organizations to voice their concerns about foreign and domestic interference in our nation’s elections.  We welcome submissions that make the business case for protecting our elections.  Please send your 600-800 word opinion pieces to protectelection@gmail.com 

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