National Federation of Independent Business
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The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) is a conservative lobbying organization with its headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee and offices in Washington, D.C. USA, and in all 50 state capitals. NFIB's lobbying efforts are focused on the impact of current and proposed legislation on businesses (primarily small businesses) and professional practices at all levels of government, but primarily at the federal and state levels. Its political action committee is called Save America's Free Enterprise Trust. The federation calls itself nonpartisan but historically has contributed more to business-friendly Republican candidates for office. NFIB claims a membership base of about 350,000.
NFIB was founded by C. Wilson Harder in 1943 and maintained its headquarters in San Mateo, California until 1992 when it was re-located to Nashville.
Beginning in its earliest history, NFIB's positions were determined by a polling of its membership. Periodic ballots (referred to as Mandates) were mailed to its members who then had an opportunity to vote their opinions on the questions presented. Once the votes were tallied, the majority position became NFIB's position.
In recent years NFIB has supported such items as tort reform, repeal of the estate tax and reduction of governmental paperwork. Discounted health insurance is one of NFIB's membership selling points.
NFIB has grown from an entrepreneurial vision in 1943 to a national organization. Fortune Magazine ranks NFIB as the number one business lobby (third overall) of all advocacy groups. In May 1943, Wilson Harder left his job at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to found NFIB in Burlingame, California, (and later moved to San Mateo), because he believed no organization was truly representing the interests of small business. Harder created the Mandate Ballot, sent to members on a regular basis, to get their views on issues affecting their businesses. He then communicated the positions of the members to Congress (and later state legislators). Harder’s NFIB began as a for-profit organization and later became the non-profit it is today.
Harder was succeeded in 1969 by his son John, whom the board replaced six months later with Wilson S. Johnson, who rose through the ranks of the field sales organization. Under Johnson, the NFIB began to gain greater recognition in Washington and by the 1970s in some state capitals. In the early ’80s, Johnson established the NFIB Foundation. To encourage member involvement, he created Actions Councils, which in 1987 evolved into Guardian Advisory Councils, and are now known as Leadership Councils.
Johnson was succeeded as president (he remained board chairman) by John Sloan in 1983 – the first chief executive to be brought in from outside the organization. Sloan installed a business structure with a sales manager, finance and administration directed by the CFO (both in San Mateo), and a public policy operation directed by a general manager in Washington. The San Mateo office eventually moved to Nashville, Tennessee in 1992.
Sloan believed that to help the field sales force gain entrée to prospects and increase sales it was necessary to put a greater emphasis on media and increase public awareness of the organization. Sloan also increased member contributions to the foundation and the Political Action Committee.
In 1983, the Federation established the NFIB Member Services Corporation with an initial investment of $10,000 in capital stock. The Corporation is wholly owned by NFIB. Its purpose was (and is) to provide commercial programs to assist member businesses in reducing operating costs. Programs included worker’s compensation insurance, health and life insurance, and merchant card processing services.
In 1992, following the death of John Sloan, Jack Faris assumed the role of president and began the shift from a sales[-]driven organization to a member/market driven one. The purpose of NFIB was clearly identified as affecting public policy at the state and federal levels through political and grassroots activism and lobbying in an integrated and coordinated manner.
During the Faris years, more emphasis was placed on giving personal attention to the member. In the past few years, NFIB has accelerated efforts to encourage activist involvement. A new management structure of five regions was created. Additional staff was added to raise the level of awareness of NFIB at the state level and encourage member activism, including direct political activism through an enhanced political department. Marketing, media and grassroots/political support are now managed within the regions – with the result being a higher level of member involvement, considerably more earned media attention and a higher political profile.
NFIB established region headquarters in Dallas, Columbus, Los Angeles, Nashville, Tennessee and Silver Spring, Maryland. Each region is operated as a business unit and has the ultimate responsibility for member growth and retention in the region.
Jack Faris announced his retirement in early 2005. The board formed a search committee and selected Todd A. Stottlemyer as the 5th President of NFIB. Stottlemyer took the reins of NFIB on February 15, 2006 with a goal of improving NFIB's non-partisan reach and technology infrastructure. The regional offices set up under the Faris administration were disbanded by Stottlemyer.
In February 2009, Dan Danner became the sixth president of NFIB.
On its website, the National Federation of Independent Business states that it is a "nonprofit, nonpartisan organization founded in 1943" and "represents the consensus views of its members in Washington and all 50 state capitals." Its PAC is called Save America's Free Enterprise Trust (SAFE). The organization's donations tend to strongly favor Republicans.
In 2010, 25 of its members, all Republican, were elected to the 112th Congress. A number of them, such as Rand Paul, Jeff Duncan, Paul Gosar and Kristi Noem, are affiliated with or endorsed by the Tea Party movement.
Also in 2010, the NFIB became the lead plaintiff opposing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act health care reform legislation. The organization joined 26 states in the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Act. The case was picked up by the Supreme Court, which issued its ruling on National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius on June 28, 2012, upholding most provisions of the Act. Karl Rove's conservative Crossroads GPS PAC gave NFIB $3.7 million to help fund the court fight. Meanwhile, many other small business advocates supported PPACA.
- Union of Industrial and Employers' Confederations of Europe (UNICE, now BusinessEurope)
- European Association of Craft, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises
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