Money in politics: A big problem for small business

The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, along with its more recent decision in the McCutcheon case, allows more money to flow from wealthy donors and other special interests to political candidates and elected officials. Although conventional wisdom holds that the business community approves of these decisions, money in politics is actually a big problem for most business owners.

That’s because business owners have seen that money in politics stifles innovation, disrupts the marketplace, and creates, at the very least, the impression of a corrupt political culture. In fact, a nationwide poll of 500 randomly selected business owners – most of them Republicans — found that 66 percent of the respondents disagree with Citizens United. A whopping 88 percent of respondents held a negative view of the role of money in politics.

When thinking about campaign finance reform, particularly here in Wisconsin, it’s important to note that the vast majority of Wisconsin’s businesses are small: 94 percent of our state’s private businesses employ fewer than 50 people, according to the Department of Workforce Development. Those small businesses have a significant impact, employing more than a million people and contributing in myriad ways to the unique character of our cities and small towns. But most of these small business owners are not spectacularly wealthy, nor do they want to buy unfair advantage. They prefer to invest in their businesses and their communities rather than shoveling money into political campaigns.

Wisconsin’s business owners want to compete in a robust, free, and fair marketplace, but the market isn’t free and fair when the playing field is tilted toward campaign donors. As one of our members recently said, “I don’t mind competition. But my small business can’t compete with the millions of dollars that flow into our political system from people who want to keep things as they are.”

We deserve a free and fair marketplace. The Citizens United and McCutcheon rulings should be overturned.