FALMOUTH — Americans work hard and want to enjoy the fruits of our labor. We don’t want special treatment. We just want a level playing field where everyone gets a chance to make it in America.

Not everyone is playing fair these days. Since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision five years ago, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has made the most of its new ability to pour unlimited money into our political system.

The chamber spent $35.5 million on the 2014 elections, making it one of the largest overall election spenders and the largest that didn’t disclose where it got all of its money. In four out of every five elections the chamber tried to influence, the big-business group was the largest spender.

Then there was the recent announcement about the Koch brothers’ $889 million budget for the 2016 election cycle. That’s about as much as the entire national Republican Party spent during the 2012 elections. Small-business owners don’t have that kind of money. How are we supposed to compete with that?

While the Koch brothers and large trade associations like the U.S. Chamber can use millions to influence candidates to gain favorable policies for their clients, small-business owners are left without a seat at the table. We’re not asking for a handout from Washington. We just want a political system that looks out for the mom-and-pop stores as much as they do for the U.S. Chamber, the Fortune 500 and the Koch brothers.

A fundamental principle of starting and owning your business is embracing the idea of competition. Competition allows businesses to create the best versions of themselves and, thus, thrive. As a small-business owner, it means having an understanding of what that looks like in your industry and doing what you can to establish yourself as a good alternative to your competitors.


What is not a fundamental principle of starting and owning your own business is eliminating your competition by finding a way to dominate the market.

This is what these behemoth corporate entities want to do in our political marketplace: They want to stiff-arm their competition so that they can dominate the opinions heard by our government and, therefore, the laws coming out of it.

This monopolistic desire is a principle of greed, not good business. Worse, it gives business owners like myself a bad name. Their reputation is polluting ours, just as their money is polluting our politics.

When we let big business hijack our government to write special regulations that cripple its smaller competition, the rest of us pay the price as we struggle to get or keep our small businesses going.

There are about 28 million small businesses in the United States, generating over 65 percent of the job growth over the past 20 years. The very foundation of our economy and shared prosperity is jeopardized when the real job creators are shut out of the political process.

More businesses open every day, each owner proudly displaying an open sign on his or her door, hoping to achieve the American dream. If we keep letting the voices of the few outweigh the voices of the many, this dream we’ve all worked for will become harder for others to achieve, and it will be harder for the next small-business owner to “make it,” let alone keep their doors open.

We need to end money’s rule in politics before it’s too late. That’s why this anniversary of Citizens United brought the Main Street Alliance and thousands of small-business owners, like myself, to endorse an extensive set of campaign finance policy solutions to bring fairness back into our democracy.

We are united to preserve a democracy where everyone, small-business owners and Fortune 500 CEOs alike, have a voice in the government decisions affecting our businesses. Policies to achieve this goal, like small donor public financing and robust disclosure, are already working in cities and states across the country. It’s time we replicated them nationwide.

By stopping the corrosive influence of money in politics, which is eating away the very foundation of self-government, we can keep the dream of the American businessman alive.

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