Rob Atkinson

Vice president, Progressive Policy Institute

Atkinson is the ideas man behind a raft of recent legislative proposals, including making the R&D tax credit permanent. That idea found a home on the "Innovation Agenda" that House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi recently made the basis of her party's 2006 campaign platform. Though Atkinson also advised John Kerry in 2004 and was appointed to an economic commission by President Clinton, he says that his work is bipartisan. "I see my job as helping to articulate and advance policies to most effectively boost innovation, entrepreneurship, and economic growth," he says, "and that means helping decision makers on both sides of the aisle."

William J. Dennis

Senior research fellow, National Federation of Independent Business

Holding forth behind a desk covered by a mountain of white papers, Dennis has been running research at NFIB for decades. "Advocacy is persuasion," he says. "And you can't persuade anyone if you don't have good information." Thus, Dennis has amassed a near-encyclopedic knowledge of issues facing business owners, which he refreshes by churning out countless studies, many of which surprise. One 1999 report, for example, found that the start-up rate decreased during the late '90s economic boom (from 4.5 million in 1995 to 3.1 million in 1998) because happy employees had less reason to strike out on their own.

Kent Hoover

Washington bureau chief, American City Business Journals

Hoover's reporting reaches the 500,000 subscribers of ACBJ's 41 regional papers, in markets from Albany, N.Y., to Wichita. He broke the news in 2004 when the SBA had to suspend loans because the agency ran out of money, and he has spent years writing stories on, among other topics, rising health care costs. "I am the eyes and ears for small-business owners on Capitol Hill," Hoover says, "and I get a lot of satisfaction from that."