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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

NVCA Moves to Hijack Federal Small Business Contracts

The American Small Business League distributed the following press release today:

Petaluma, Calif. – The National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) has blanketed the Congressional small business committees with generous campaign contributions in an attempt to have legislation passed which will allow the nation’s wealthiest investors to cash in on government contracts earmarked for small businesses.

In addition to contributions to most of the members of the House and Senate small business committees, the NVCA and its members have made significant campaign contributions to the Chair of the House Committee on Small Business, Nydia Velázquez (D – NY) and to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D – CA).

Federal law requires that 23 percent of all federal contracts and subcontracts, about $135 billion a year, be awarded to small businesses. If the NVCA is successful, a lion’s share of those small business contracts could soon be diverted to firms owned and controlled by some of the largest venture capital firms in the United States.

On September 30, the Small Business Innovation Research Program is set to expire. With that in mind, the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship has passed S. 3362, the SBIR/STTR Reauthorization Act of 2008. The bill will allow some of the largest venture capital firms in America to participate in federal small business programs. The bill caps venture capital participation at 18 percent for the National Institutes of Health and 8 percent for other agencies. If passed through the Senate, the bill would go to a conference committee between the House and Senate to be finalized.

With S.3362 pending, the NVCA and its members are pushing to include a substantial portion of the legislative language from two House bills which were passed through the House last year and were designed to reauthorize the program. As passed, Both H.R 3567 and H.R. 5819, would allow firms owned and controlled by billionaire venture capitalists and wealthy investors to qualify and participate in government small business contracting programs without limits on the total amount of venture capital participation in the program.

Small business advocates are concerned that if the legislation becomes law, the average American small business will be forced to compete head-to-head with firms owned and controlled by the nation’s largest venture capital companies for even the smallest orders of goods or services.

The American Small Business League (ASBL) projects that thousands of middle class firms across the country will be forced to close their doors if the NVCA is successful. Larger states like Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois and California could lose billions of dollars in federal contract dollars and thousands of jobs. Smaller states that have been hit the hardest by the current economic downturn will no doubt feel the impact of this legislation, which will pull hundreds of millions of dollars out of the middle class economy in those states.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi exerted so much pressure on members of the House, she was able to push the bills through in record time. In fact, Pelosi pushed the bills through the House so quickly that many members of the House voted for the bill before they had the chance to read the legislation or receive feedback from their constituents. As a result, the bills were passed despite opposition from every major small businesses organization in the country, including the Small Business Administration (SBA).

The fate of small business owners and the SBIR program is now in the hands of the full Senate. Small business owners and advocates were shocked and disappointed when Senate Small Business Committee Chair John Kerry (D – MA) passed the Senate version of H.R. 5819, S. 3362 through his committee shortly before the summer recess.

“Senator Kerry has been complaining for years about loopholes and Bush Administration policies that allow Fortune 500 firms to receive federal small business contracts. Yet, he has done nothing to stop that problem,” ASBL President Lloyd Chapman said. “Now he is backing federal legislation to give small business contracts to venture capital firms and billionaires. I couldn’t be more disappointed in this Congress and it’s leaders.”

The ASBL has pledged to fight both pieces of legislation by organizing opposition from Chambers of Commerce, other small business organizations and small business owners across the country.


Christopher Gunn
Communications Director
American Small Business League
(707) 789-9575

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