Thursday, November 06, 2003


NFIB's Agent In Government

Sometimes you have to admire the Republicans for their candor.

Check out this quote from the Small Business Administration's Chief Council for Advocacy, Thomas Sullivan. Sullivan was executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business Legal Foundation, "which guides small businesses on legal issues and promotes their interests in the court," when he was appointed SBA by President Bush in 2002.

Even while in government, however, Sullivan is keeping his eyes on the prize:
"I am doing the exact same thing as chief counsel for advocacy," Sullivan said, "only NFIB does not have to pay me now."
Isn't that nice.

The fact that the Bush administration is doing the business of the business assocations is not exactly shocking news to us, but it's always nice to have someone come right out and admit that NFIB has just switched it's office over to government housing, and is billing the taxpayers for its payroll.

In an interview with the San Antonio Express News where he was in town to address the effects of immigration policy on small business, Sullivan boasted about the clout of the SBA:
The office always had clout. It helped stem the burdensome ergonomics rule from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration that could have bankrupted many companies several years ago.
Well, not exactly. He seems to be confusing the SBA with his previous job at NFIB. Which is easy to do these days. Business. Government. Business. Government.

NFIB, the parent organization of the Legal Foundation, was one of the main forces behind repeal of the federal OSHA standard and behind the Washington State initiative repealing their ergonomics standard.

In fact, NFIB likes to boast that in the week before the vote against the federal standard, they
sent 70,000 fax alerts against the ergonomics regulation to its members outside of Washington, asking them to turn up the heat on undecided lawmakers.

"Our fax machines have been running almost nonstop, printing letters that small business owners sent to their elected representatives and then shared with us," Senior Vice President Dan Danner told The Washington Post the week before the vote.
The NFIB Legal Foundation's website boasts that the Foundation
was recently part of a full-court press that successfully challenged the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) ergonomics rule. Responding to the NFIB Legal Foundation lawsuit against OSHA and an intense lobbying campaign by NFIB, Congress repealed this law that would have cost small business owners more than $40 billion.
Even before Bush, small business had a "special place" in government, although not quite this special. A bit of background might help explain.

The Gingrich Congress of the mid-1990's, responding to their deep concern about contributions from the fate of small business in this country and the risk that overburdensome regulations may hurt their profits drive them into wreck and ruin, thoughtfully passed the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) in 1996.

SBREFA gave small business, represented in government by the Small Business Administration, an early bite at the regulatory apple even before the regulatory proposals were issued, which is when the rest of the public gets to comment. ( Editorial Note: We here at Confined Space have always wondered why workers don't get a similar early bite at the apple, but the answer to that question is probably too obvious for us to figure out.)

Selected small businesses, as well as small business associations, chosen jointly by OSHA and the SBA, would participate on the SBREFA committee that would comment on the pre-proposal, or "SBREFA Draft" of OSHA regulations. And "frank and candid" discussions would continue throughout the process as SBA representatives played the role of "the loyal opposition."

Of course having the NFIB right inside the bureacracy makes things so much more efficient.

P.S. Sullivan's quote has been unanimously selected by the entire staff here at Confined Space as the


entitling him to a Confined Space T-Shirt, if such a thing existed. Congratulations Tom