The Disappointment

Hector Barreto Jr.

Administrator, Small Business Administration

Dubbed "the next Michael Brown" by The Washington Post, Barreto has caught flak from members of both parties for his flat-footed response to Hurricane Katrina. The heat is warranted: Even with a larger staff, the agency is processing loan requests at half the rate it did in 2004. By the end of 2005, it had a backlog of 35,000 hurricane-related applications alone. "The SBA's disaster-loan program is aptly named," said Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine at a recent hearing. Nor is this a Katrina-only phenomenon. In 2004, the SBA had to temporarily shutter its loan program, and the agency has the worst employee morale of any federal agency, according to a Partnership for Public Service study. Barreto's defenders say he is doing the best he can, given that the SBA's budget has been cut by 36% since 2001--more than any other federal agency's.

The Question Mark

Christopher Cox

Chairman, Securities and Exchange Commission

In the 1980s Cox ran a small company that published an English translation of the Soviet daily Pravda. (It was read mainly by émigrés, academics, and diplomats.) Later, as a congressman from Orange County, Calif., he championed business initiatives, co-sponsoring the moratorium on Internet taxation and spearheading the first significant attempt to repeal the estate tax. Most observers, therefore, expected he would favor a deregulation-friendly approach when he joined the SEC this summer, perhaps by issuing interpretations of the accounting rules in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act that would give a break to smaller companies and private companies. But though Cox has delayed implementation of SOX rules for small companies until 2007, he has implied in interviews that he is loath to place these types of businesses in a special category.

The Occasional Friend

Tom Donohue

President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Donohue is the business community's most powerful voice in Washington, but these days the chamber seems beholden to a few large corporations. During the 2004 campaign, Donohue placed class-action lawsuit reform at the top of the chamber's wish list--hardly a pressing issue for most entrepreneurs. On the other hand, the chamber has successfully pushed for lifting restrictions on access to private capital. So, depending on the issue, Donohue could be friend or foe.