Working Lunch with Marty Keller

The politics of small business

Back Article Sep 30, 2011 By Douglas Curley

There is a distinction between being pro business and being pro small business, at least according to Marty Keller. He hopes to use this distinction to unify a mostly silent force of 3.5 million small-business owners and give them a voice — and perhaps the ability — to dramatically reshape the California Legislature in 2012.

“Politicians are not afraid of small-business owners because they can’t un-elect them. There is no statewide, organized, grassroots effort to identify, support and elect candidates that will champion the small-business agenda,” Keller says. “I plan to change that.”

He points out that, unlike the state, regional and ethnic chambers of commerce and organizations such as the National Association of Women Business Owners and the National Federation of Independent Business, his Small Business Revolution is not a membership-based group and is not a lobbying organization. The group is also not interested in competing with those groups for money or members.

“We are strictly an electing group,” he says. “And when you look at the new districts that have been created through redistricting and term limits, you have tons of districts that won’t have an incumbent running. That’s always a great opportunity to make a difference.”

The first step toward identifying small-business legislative candidates will take place at the Small Business Revolution’s Small Business Summit on Nov. 15 in Los Angeles. He hopes to attract representatives from pro-business groups of all types and sizes and form a political allegiance. Candidates that meet the census profile would be eligible to receive political action committee money.

“Unlike the [California Chamber of Commerce] and other large organizations that tend to throw big money at big proposition issues, ours will be an organized, candidate-by-candidate approach,” Keller says.
 
Keller notes the larger pro-business organizations are also concerned about a possible two-thirds Democratic majority next year.

“We are definitely not partisan. In fact, we expect to identify some Democratic candidates to carry the pro-small-business torch. You’re not going to get a Republican majority in this Legislature, not in my lifetime,” he says. “So we will be taking a close look at candidates from all party affiliations.”


Occupation: Keller, 60, is CEO and co-founder of Small Business Revolution (smallbusinessrev.com). According to Keller, the mission of this new, nonpartisan political action committee is to elect a state Legislature next year that puts small-business interests and economic recovery at the top of its agenda. To fund this effort, he hopes to create a social media outreach program that can collect $10 from each of the estimated 3.5 million small-business owners in California.

Résumé: Under the Pete Wilson administration, Keller ran the Smog Check Program for the Department of Consumer Affairs. He later served as the executive director for the California Business Coalition. In 2007, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed him the state’s small-business advocate, a position he served until August of this year.

Personal: Keller is single and lives off the Garden Highway in the Swallows Nest community. A voracious reader, he loves traveling and gets to Europe for a couple weeks most years. Hailing from Michigan, he also admits to enjoying the winter sport of bowling.

Lunch: At Ten22 in Old Sacramento, Keller enjoys a chopped Caesar salad with warm garlic croutons in a citrus Parmesan dressing.

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