For years, the small business constituency had a powerful advocate in Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts. He was chairman of the Senate Committee of Small Business and Entrepreneurship, an undersized role for a former Democratic nominee for president. Though the committee's chief responsibility was overseeing the Small Business Administration, Kerry weighed in on the whole range of issues that affect entrepreneurs and small firms, sometimes clashing with his party in the process. He was, for instance, hostile to the notion of forcing hedge fund and private equity manager to pay income tax on the money they earned on the "carry" -- that is, on their 20 or 30 percent share of investment profits. He worried, he said at the time, that such a rule would choke off venture investment in small firms.
In the Congress, Kerry moves on to a much bigger pulpit: the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The helm of the Senate Small Business Committee goes to Louisiana Democrat Mary Landrieu. The change is significant; Kerry brought a profile to the committee that Landrieu will find difficult to match. According to a ranking from the nonpartisan website congress.org, Kerry was the 12th most effective Senator in 2007, while Landrieu was 29th. Landrieu, though, did crack another Top Twenty list: Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington named her one of the 20 most corrupt people in Congress -- a dishonor awarded for a $2 million earmark she bestowed on a major campaign contributor. She joins such ill-distinguished company as Rep. William Jefferson, a fellow Democrat from Louisiana in whose freezer the FBI found a briefcase full of cash; Rep. Rick Renzi, a Republican from Arizona indicted for fraud; and Sen. Ted Stevens, a recently convicted felon. Of these four, she's the only one to win re-election to the 111th Congress.*
Senator Kerry will be missed. Let's hope he stops in at a hearing from time to time.
*All told, the list includes 17 Republicans and seven Democrats.