By Brendan Fischer
The lead plaintiff in the U.S. Supreme Court challenge to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the National Federation for Independent Business (NFIB), is a highly partisan front group masquerading as the "nation's leading small business association," critics say. The nation's highest court is expected to rule on the federal health care law Thursday.
Bankrolled By Big Donors, Not Small BusinessA recent analysis by Public Campaign and Alliance for a Just Society shows that the NFIB and its Legal Center received an influx of big dollar donations in 2010 and 2011 as their challenge to the federal health care law moved forward -- suggesting the challenge is bankrolled by deep-pocketed special interests. The NFIB pocketed more than $10 million in six figure contributions in 2010 and 2011, with $8.5 million coming from just four contributors. As a non-profit, NFIB is not required to disclose its donors, but it is known that the organization received $3.7 million in 2010 from Karl Rove's 501(c)(4) political group Crossroads GPS. In contrast, in 2009, the year before the healthcare lawsuit, the largest donation NFIB received was $21,000.
"Small businesses don't give multi-million dollar contributions, like the ones NFIB has recently received without disclosing their sources," says Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Grijalva and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) have asked the organization to disclose who is bankrolling their health care lawsuit. "If NFIB is determined not to say where its money comes from or who its members are, we must ask what the group is hiding," Grijalva said.
The NFIB joined with 26 states in a lawsuit against the 2010 Affordable Care Act (better known as "Obamacare"), but is funding the challenge entirely on its own. "I'm not sure most voters understand that a lawsuit by their states is being funded by an ideological organization with an issue ax to grind," said Ethan Rome, executive director of Health Care for America Now.
"This type of thing raises all kind of red flags," Florida state Rep. Mark Pafford (D) told the Palm Beach Post last year. "My concern is, if it's a lawsuit on behalf of the people of Florida, then I would believe it should be the people of Florida footing the bill. When you have an outside party paying, then every aspect of the [state Attorney General's] office might be up for sale."
NFIB Ties to Right-Wing, ALECWhile NFIB's funding has recently swelled with its crusade against Obamacare, its partisan affiliations run deep. Ninety percent of its campaign contributions over the past fifteen years have gone to support GOP candidates -- and it is safe to say that ninety percent of small business owners are not Republican. The NFIB's president, Dan Danner, is a longtime lobbyist who has never been a small businessman. The rest of the NFIB's leadership consists of right-wing veterans.
For example, NFIB Senior Vice President for Federal Policy, Susan Eckerly, was previously the director of regulatory policy for the David Koch-founded Citizens for a Sound Economy, which split into Freedomworks and Americans for Prosperity. She also previously served on the board of the right-wing Heritage Foundation, where she voiced support for the Cato Institute's push to repeal the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Community Reinvestment Act.
NFIB is also closely tied to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Jean Card, NFIB's Vice President of Media and Communications, was an ALEC Task Force advisor from 1994 to 1996, before becoming a speechwriter in the Bush administration and eventually moving to the NFIB.
The NFIB is currently a private sector member of ALEC and has had representatives on the ALEC Civil Justice Task Force, the Health and Human Services Task Force, and the Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force. In August 2011, an NFIB lobbyist received ALEC's "Private Sector Member of the Year" award. ALEC's Civil Justice Task Force legal adviser, Mark Behrens of Shook, Hardy & Bacon, is on the advisory board of NFIB's Legal Center. NFIB representatives have also been presenters at ALEC meetings and workshops, and Jonathan Williams, director of ALEC's Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force, has spoken at NFIB events. ALEC, for its part, proudly displays an NFIB endorsement of its 2011 Koch-funded report on state competitiveness, Rich States, Poor States, with a quote from NFIB Vice President Steve Woods exclaiming "Kudos to ALEC, Laffer, and Moore."
ALEC also filed an amicus brief in the challenge to the health care law and has also been focused on repealing "Obamacare" with state resolutions and bills to undermine the federal law.
Who Represents Small Business?Despite the NFIB's right-wing ties and possible financial support from big business interests, it purports to represent small businesses, and says it is challenging the Affordable Care Act because of the law's purported impact on the "small business community" (despite tax credits that help small business provide insurance for employees).
Another small business association, the Small Business Majority, conducted a poll showing that around half of small-business owners want to preserve the Affordable Care Act, while just 30 percent want to repeal it.
Who does the NFIB really represent?