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Coverage of Letter Asking NFIB for Donors, Members

Co-chairs Grijalva and Ellison sent a letter to the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) June 12 asking the group to disclose its donors and members, and to explain a $3.7 million grant from Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS. Here's a roundup of recent coverage.

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Washington Post – “Small business group’s political motives come under question in battle against health care law” (link)

Democratic Representatives Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.) and Keith Ellison (Minn.) have raised concerns that the National Federation of Independent Business has chosen to ignore the needs of small business owners in favor of “large corporate interests that do not speak for the American people.” Citing reports that show small companies are already benefiting from health care changes, they are asking the group that calls itself “The Voice of Small Business” to defend its central role in the lawsuit against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which the Supreme Court is expected to rule on before the end of the month.

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Wall Street Journal – “Lawmakers Question Small-Business Group’s Funding” (link)

The [NFIB] legal center, which brought the lawsuit, is a separate non-profit entity operating within the organization that is supported by roughly 10,000 regular donors, Mr. Danner told the Wall Street Journal in March. In recent years, at least some were motivated to donate by the health-care law challenge, he said. According to an IRS filing, the legal center spent some $2.9 million in 2010 on the health-care lawsuit alone, with $1.2 million paid for by donations and grants from the organization. The remaining $1.7 million was charged as "contributed services" by the law firm hired for the case.

Mr. Danner says that Voice of Free Enterprise—a new NFIB entity that allows donors from outside the small-business sector to support its lobbying efforts—wasn't created to help fund the lawsuit, and that any monies derived from it have not and will not go toward the lawsuit. Still, not all small-business groups believe the NFIB's legal battle is in the best interest of small firms.

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The Hill – “House liberals want group that filed suit against healthcare law to reveal donors” (link)

House liberals this week are asking the business group leading the lawsuit against the administration's healthcare reform law to reveal its donors. Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) say they doubt the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) has challenged the healthcare law on behalf of small businesses, as the group claims.

The lawmakers, who head the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), say they suspect the suit is, rather, the work of conservative operatives and “large corporate interests that do not speak for the American people.” Citing recent reports indicating the reform law is helping some small businesses financially, Grijalva and Ellison wonder why a small-business lobbying group would want to dismantle such reforms.

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Daily Caller – “Liberal congressmen demand donor list from business lobby group at center of Obamacare court case” (link)

NFIB communications director Jean Card dismissed the letter during an interview with The Daily Caller, and said the group did not plan to respond in any way. “As soon as the health-care law was passed, the response from NFIB members was immediate and overwhelmingly supportive of challenging the constitutionality of the law in court,” NFIB president Dan Danner added. “As we have said before, Crossroads GPS contributions were not used to fund the healthcare lawsuit.”

“I’m not sure why the Progressive Caucus thinks that they can compel us to disclose things that we are not legally required to disclose,” said Card. NFIB is a membership organization for small businesses. As a trade association, it is not required to publicly disclose information about its donors.

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Entrepreneur – “Democratic Lawmakers Question NFIB's Motives for Small Business” (link)

The NFIB does not plan to disclose its donor list, amounts of donations or its member list, according to Jean Card, a spokesperson for the NFIB. "We are representing our membership well and per their wishes," Card says. "The underlying charge of this letter is unfounded."

Card says that the $3.7 million donation from Crossroads GPS was "absolutely not" used to fund the health care lawsuit. The money was used to pay for advertisements promoting issues important to NFIB members in the 2010 Congressional election cycle, she says. The implication that the NFIB is not independent and is championing conservative political issues is not true, says Card.