Pro-Obama business group recruited small business leaders to back president’s budget plan

Patrick Howley Political Reporter
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A powerful Washington-based business organization that organized a series of fiscal-cliff policy discussions at the White House this week between senior Obama administration officials and local small business owners recruited each of the business owners to serve as community advocates and write op-eds supporting President Obama’s budget proposal, insiders believe.

The organization Business Forward has hosted more than 350 U.S. small business leaders over the last three weeks to discuss the fiscal cliff with senior officials in Washington, D.C., including White House senior advisor Valerie Jarrett and White House Council of Economic Advisors chairman Alan Krueger.

The Business Forward Tumblr page features photographs of the specially-selected small business leaders engaged in workshops with the White House officials.

Though Business Forward has organized such workshops in the past, the organization’s Tumblr page was not updated with new photographs between March 19 and Nov. 19, when the current round of meetings on the fiscal cliff issue began.

Founded in 2009 to represent the business community in advocating for Obama’s economic policies, according to Washington insiders, Business Forward is a collaboration between some of the nation’s largest and most powerful companies.

“Members include Aetna, American Airlines, AT&T, CIT, Citi, Comcast, Dow, Duke Energy, Facebook, Fidelity, Ford, Hilton Hotels, HP, Intuit, Lockheed Martin, Nike, McDonald’s, Microsoft, Qualcomm, Time Warner, Time Warner Cable, Verizon, Visa, United Health Group, AllScripts and Walmart,” according to the Business Forward website.

“These corporations work with Business Forward to identify, recruit and brief small business owners, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs of all kinds who are looking for a meaningful way to participate in policy debates,” according to the organization.

These small business owners include local success stories like Nancy Victor, president-elect of the San Antonio chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners.

“Nancy Victor is no stranger to the national scene,” gushed her hometown television station KSAT Nov. 26. She “went to the White House in June for talks on the local economy and job creation. Victor has been invited back to Washington, D.C., next week to give input about the talks surrounding the so-called ‘fiscal cliff.'”

Victor told KSAT that she was “fortunate” to be invited to the White House. She also made a statement criticizing government spending cuts. Victor also said that Congress needs to “move us forward.”

KSAT concluded the segment by mentioning Victor’s recent op-ed in the local Express News.

The small business owners “recruited” by Business Forward don’t just participate in policy debates.

“They go back home and talk to their colleagues, their clients and their networks. They write op-eds, talk to reporters and talk about the need for a balanced approach,” Business Forward executive director Bert Kaufman told The Hill Thursday.

Though many of their op-eds are strikingly similar, none of them mention their affiliation with Business Forward.

Local op-eds promoted by the Business Forward Twitter page date back to early November, shortly after the election.

Charlotte business owner Kenneth Rance, writing for Nov. 27, declared, “So why shouldn’t the most wealthy Americans pay just a little bit more in taxes? Haven’t they benefited the most from the Bush Tax Cuts? … Spread the word throughout your jobs, communities, and congregations on how important it is to contact your elected officials and encourage them to support the President’s ‘go big’ balanced approach to solving the fiscal cliff.”

Las Vegas business owner Ron Nelson, writing in the Las Vegas Sun, Nov. 23, opined, “As a small business owner, I could not agree more with the president’s approach. … The millionaires and billionaires in our country could easily afford to pay taxes on their additional income over $250,000 at the same rate as they did in the 1990s. … We cannot, as a nation, rely purely on spending cuts.”

Hampton, Va., business owner Angela R. Claypoole wrote for The Virginia-Pilot Nov. 18, “On Election Day, we agreed that raising taxes is a necessary step for our economic future. We can’t just cut anti-poverty programs and hope that balances the additional tax cuts.”

California business owner Charles Vignola wrote for the Santa Clarita Valley Signal Nov. 12, “Unfortunately for congressional Republicans, the public has spoken, giving President Obama an electoral mandate beyond anything George W. Bush ever achieved. Voters overwhelmingly agreed with Obama’s reasoning that the rich need to pay a little more.”

Business Forward representatives could not be reached for comment.

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Patrick Howley