Back in February, the American Small Business League endorsed Barack Obama for president, the only small business advocacy group, so far as the Agenda knows, to do so. Although it wasn't really of an endorsement -- it was more of a big wet kiss. "In my life, I have never been more excited about any politician than I am about Barack Obama," ASBL president Lloyd Chapman said at the time.
Actually, the ASBL's enthusiasm struck the Agenda as verging on cultish. When the Agenda spoke its mind, Chapman wrote back to affirm that "Sen. Obama is the only presidential candidate that has addressed" contracting fraud. "Our hope is that with Sen. Obama in the White House, small businesses nationwide will be able to count on him to eliminate the devastating fraud and abuse that has been the status quo during the Bush Administration."
So you'd think that the ASBL's would grant the incoming president some forbearance, more so than those who didn't endorse, or actually opposed, Obama. But no. Although the president-elect enjoys broad popular support for his cabinet-in-the-making, the honeymoon is over for the ASBL.
The first press release arrived to my inbox on December 4th, just a month after the election, with the subject line, "Obama Drops Promise To End Contracting Abuses." The complaint: that the pledge, made twice on the campaign trail, to end "the diversion of federal small business contracts to corporate giants" did not appear on the President Elect's Change.gov website. This hardly seemed significant enough to drop the hammer on Obama, but since then, the press releases have come frequently and become increasingly shrill:
*December 8th: "Obama Struggles To Explain Drop of Windfall Profits Tax for Oil and Gas Industry." (It also doesn't appear on the Change.gov website.)
*December 10th: "Obama Will Allow Fortune 500 Firms to Receive Federal Small Business Contracts." (Regurgitating the December 4th complaint, but in ridiculously strong terms -- just because the promise doesn't appear on the website doesn't mean Obama will actively permit big firms to get small business contracts.)
*December 18th: "Obama Economic Policy Snubs Small Business." (No evidence of actual snubbing, apart from the missing contracting abuse pledge, but Chapman now says that Obama "may be preparing to roll out policies and legislation that could have a severe negative impact on the small businesses" and predicts that the new president will support legislation that would give venture-funded companies access to SBA programs and federal contracts for small firms. He also doubts that Obama will support rebuilding the Small Business Administration, even though this is advocated by his transition team.)
*December 19th: "Obama Appoints Venture Capital Executive to Head Small Business Administration" ("Seems to confirm a prediction" that Obama will back the above-mentioned bill. In fact, it appears the nominee is not a VC but a private equity adviser -- there is a difference.)
Finally, yesterday came "Obama To Create Loopholes for Venture Capitalists." Now, it is no longer a prediction: Obama "is preparing to create significant changes in federal contracting law that will allow some of the nation's wealthiest investors to receive federal contracts earmarked for small businesses." Later the missive refers to "the proposed Obama Administration policy." The Agenda, however, has not seen any news report, official release, or transition document to show that Obama team has proposed any such policy. When I asked for a source, the ASBL's Chris Gunn said that while the Obama-Biden team hasn't "explicitly" announced support for the bill, "we believe that the Obama administration is planning to do just that."
Oh -- so it is just a prediction. I see. Does the ASBL realize that it does a fundamentally worthy cause no favors with the hyperbole -- that it undermines the organization's credibility with the press (including, for instance, the Agenda) and surely will win it no friends in the incoming administration? Haranguing is simply not a winning lobbying strategy.
In this post, the ASBL has gotten more attention than it deserves. The Agenda regrets that.