Should the Chamber support Political Candidates?

  • By: Fresno Chamber President/CEO, Al Smith

As we move into the silly season of politics and the legislature and we begin to see the fruits of our government’s labors, it might be worthwhile to visit a question that comes up periodically from some Chamber members.  Just what is the role of the Chamber and should we be endorsing candidates, raising money for their election and if elected, continuously educating them of the impact government has on the success of any business – large or small?

Let me highlight some of the silliest proposals (devastating might be better a better word) that our State legislature is fostering on our businesses.  There are attempts to raise minimum wage with automatic yearly increases; to allow organizers  to unfairly influence employees to join a union without benefit of a secret ballot; would not allow you, the employer, to check on a prospective employee’s credit report unless it is substantially job related; would expand paid sick leave for employees; increase litigation costs in fair employment and housing cases; allow new “shakedown” lawsuits against small business; and eliminating certain tax incentives allowed to business. The list goes on and on. Remember, these are just the highlights.

Obviously, many of the elected officials who are making these damaging decisions haven’t a clue how to run a business – never had to meet a payroll; market a product (other than themselves) or pay rent. They have never had to fill out the forms, meet the deadlines and hire the experts that are all necessary just to take care of governments demands – time better spent at increasing the success of their business and hiring more employees.  The politicians shout, “jobs, jobs, jobs” but the only job they seem to be interested in is their own.

And who – one might add – is influencing the decision makers who make these business-smothering proposals? Organized labor from the trial lawyers; prison guards; California Teachers Association; SEIU and a multitude of other unions throwing campaign support money around like a “drunken sailor in port”, as my grandfather use to say – no offense to the Navy.

Additionally, the unions flood the streets with an army of their members when a show of force is necessary.

“If you are not at the table, you might be on the menu”

That was a quote from a Chamber executive when discussing the need for the business community to fight back.

Name the organization who takes responsibility for the health of the business community.  Name the largest organization that assists in the “job producing” segment of our community.  Well if the Chamber doesn’t do it, who will?

Few single businesses have the clout to influence government actions by themselves, but seventeen hundred plus businesses give us a very big voice. Endorsing and funding political candidates is vital if we are to attempt to balance the influence between unions and business.

Right now, less than 25% of Chamber members contribute to our Political Action Committee when they renew their annual dues.  Let me urge you to join your colleagues and add the $99 dollars suggested on your invoice when it comes across your desk.  After all, your business might just depend on it. At this dinner table I would rather be the eat-er than the eat-ee.


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