Business, the GOP and Change

Virginia Republicans may be losing their grip on power, but they can console themselves that they’re still perceived as “pro business.” That gives them a significant advantage in fund raising. I’m yet to be convinced, however, that the pro-business epithet is terribly beneficial for the rest of us.

According to the 2008 report card issued by the Virginia Foundation for Research and Economic Education (Virginia FREE), the top pro-business legislators in the General Assembly are all Republican. As listed by the Associated Press, they include:

1. Sen. Walter Scotch, R
(tie) Sen. John Watkins, R
3. Sen. Kenneth Stolle, R
(tie) Sen. Thomas Norment, R
5. Sen. William Wampler, R
6. Sen. Frank Wagner, R
(tie) Del. Thomas Rust, R
8. Sen. Harry Blevins, R
9. Sen. Robert Hurt, R
(tie) Sen. Stephen Newman, R

Once upon a time, I would have said it was a good thing to be pro-business. America is, after all, a capitalist society. A healthy economy requires healthy, profitable businesses. But I’m not so sure I believe that anymore. Increasingly, businesses view government and politics not as a thing apart from the private sector but as an extension of marketplace, an arena where they can manipulate the rules and the power of patronage for their own benefit. Increasingly, the “business” lobby has evolved into an aggregation of special interests that look out for themselves, not the general welfare.

Clayton Roberts, president of Virginia FREE, doesn’t see it that way. In a column published widely around the state this morning, he regards the interests of business, the citizenry and good government as largely synonomous:

Virginia businesses do not see public safety, education, health care, transportation, and energy as partisan issues. They are Virginia issues. They are pressing business issues.

Roberts, a delightful guy whom I regard as a friend, blames elected officials and partisan stand-offs for Virginia’s failure to devise legislative fixes. I wouldn’t disagree. Mindless partisanship does not lend itself to solving problems.

But the biggest obstacle in Virginia is something else entirely: the widespread belief that complex problems have easy answers — usually entailing the expenditure of larger amounts of money. The answer, we hear repeatedly, is mo’ money. We don’t hear a cry for Fundamental Change.

John McCain may be trying to seize the mantle of change in the presidential elections, but I see little evidence that Virginia Republicans — or businesses — have been caught up in the same spirit.

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7 responses to “Business, the GOP and Change”

  1. E M Risse Avatar

    Jim Bacon:

    Very well put!


  2. Anonymous Avatar


    You mean we are supposed to praise Tommy Norment for being in the pocket of Dominion?

  3. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    we need a useful definition of “business friendly” and in turn why those things described as “business friendly” benefit citizens.

    For instance, those that support Dominion – as Dominion is currently operated – and supported by legislation – is that type of “business friendly” in the best interests of citizens?

    I see Mr. Watkins on the list.

    Is that the same person who wants to outlaw proffers?

    and need we be reminded of the “business friendly” Fannie/Freddie Mae cheerleaders?

  4. Not Clayton Roberts Avatar
    Not Clayton Roberts

    Those questions are quite easily answered if you simply make the effort to go to the source document. There you can examine every bill that was used in the ratings.

    The Virginia FREE web site has it at

  5. fundamental change Avatar
    fundamental change

    I note that HB 1522, which would have abolished the Virginia Department of Business Assistance, is apparently not listed as bill used in the ratings.

    Without debating the merits of the bill, it would seem that taking a position on eliminating a state agency that potentially serves every business in the Commonwealth might be meaningful within the range of issues considered.

  6. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Indeed… their evaluative process is comprehensive…. and straight-forward… clear… understandable

    but as I suspected… the underlying premise is essentially along the lines of “what is good for business is good for the State/Country” and that’s simply not true and in fact, it’s got us into a lot of trouble from time to time.

    That stereotypical view fostered the ultimate undermining of Fannie/Freddie – to the direct detriment of all the ordinary citizens and taxpayers who will have to pay to bail out those who were “pro-business” in their zeal to sell more homes..and more of what homes need – especially if the Feds were going to buy and/or insure mortgages carte blanche. – and that “pro-business” attitude was little more than a legalized pyramid scheme.

    I’m not hitting on Va Free specifically..they did a respectable job on their approach … but their tilt is really no different than the tilt you’d get from VEA or the Sierra Club folks picking the bills and votes that represent their “correct” positions.

  7. Reid Greenmun Avatar
    Reid Greenmun

    Corruption within our government is never in the best interest of the citizens.

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