The author of this article takes the rather partisan stand that the actions of the National Federation of Independent Business (“NFIB”) are really serving as shill for the Republican Party (a premise that the article does not document in any kind of satisfactory way). Nevertheless, this does raise an interesting question regarding advocacy groups: Whose interests are they truly serving?
A key example of this confusion and line-blurring can be found in the lead up to the 2011 changes in Georgia’s laws dealing with non-compete agreements. During this process, a number of very well established business advocacy organizations claimed to be advocating for the proposed changes on behalf of Georgia’s small businesses. This despite the fact that the changes to the law, as written, were and are demonstrably disadvantageous to small and medium sized businesses who often lack the resources to engage in repeated litigation over the enforceability of non-compete provisions in employment agreements. (The revised statute virtually guarantees a glut of these suits by permitting Court’s to completely re-write otherwise unenforceable agreements, effectively eliminating predictable results in conflicts over the enforceability of non-compete agreements in Georgia.) What was not clear on the surface was that the funding for the campaigns favoring this legislation was largely from large corporations. The mantle of grass-roots, small business support made for much better P.R.
While the situation above is only one small example, the lack of transparency in groups of all stripes alleging to represent this constituency or that constituency ill serves our political process and makes it difficult for meaningful discussion and debate on important economic and political topics to occur.
It is past time for us, as country, to raise the curtain on political advocacy (and especially campaign contributions), and let sunlight in. Free speech guarantees the right to participate in the freely in the political process. It does not, however, entitle entities to participate deceptively. Knowing who is truly supporting (and funding) political initiatives tells us much about whose interests are truly being served. IT allows us to make rational, informed decisions.
Transparency is the lifeblood of an effective and fair political process. Let us strive to ensure that remains part of ours.