Press Release
July 6, 2022

Protecting Democracy Mission of New CA Small Business Collaborative

(Sacramento, CA)—A new California Business for Democracy collaborative launched today to raise the trusted voice of small business on the need to protect our democracy. The collaborative will elevate the issue to be one of concern to voters in November and call for Congressional action to stop the nation from falling into autocracy.

“A strong democracy is essential for a vibrant entrepreneurial economy,” said Heidi Pickman of CAMEO, one of the CA Business for Democracy collaborative leaders. “Small business owners need certainty.  We always work toward a level-playing field for small businesses when it comes to policy, which necessitates democracy with a capital D.”

Small business owners know what happens under autocracy and one-party rule. Small businesses no longer are valued other than for the taking by deep-pocketed corporations. Entrepreneurship and economies die.

Americans need to be concerned.

For example, Russia’s autocracy from 2000 to present is foretelling. Putin and his wealthy supporters used trumped-up charges to enable his oligarchs and the Russian government to take over the businesses of entrepreneurs. In the first 12 years of President Putin’s reign, one-third of Russian businesses were raided and over 70,000 business owners were jailed, and thousands went into exile. (Ruth Ben-Ghiat, “Strongmen: From Mussolini to the Present”)

When autocratic rulers have a lock on power, the voices of small business owners are not heard, and the ownership of a successful business and the welfare of its employees are always in jeopardy.

The January 6 House hearings have shown the fragility of our nation’s democracy and how easy it is for supporters of autocracy to deny the ability of voters to pick their President and Vice-President under the current Electoral Count Act.

Several states have proposed or passed laws that threaten democracy by establishing the ability for state legislators or state officials to nullify local election results if the powers-that-be do not like the decision of the voters. The U.S. Supreme Court could rule next year that this threat to free and fair elections is Constitutional, a decision that would accelerate the country’s slide into autocracy.

The CA Business for Democracy collaborative is calling on Congressional candidates to support reforming the Electoral Count Act and the passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act. A bi-partisan group of Senators is drafting a bill to reform the Electoral Count Act. The other two Acts failed in the U.S. Senate this year.

“We will make our voices heard and we hope to make protecting democracy a votable issue this fall,” said Alan Thiesen of Sherlock Geopolitical Forecasting. “Our democracy and economy are at stake.”

“As a mom and a business leader, I’m deeply worried about the direction of our country,” said Michelle Hirons of HigherRing, another collaborative leader.  “We should be investing in our people through education and job training to improve their lives. We should be aiming for the fair inclusion of all people because diversity makes us more powerful. We should be caring for our planet and reining in the damage we cause to natural systems.  Most Americans believe this but recent attacks on our democracy threaten our potential. A free and functioning democracy is worth protecting and our company will be fighting to pressure the elected officials in our 26 states to support the will of the American people.”

“I believe that we have the best, small-d democratic system in the world – when it truly represents the will of the people, “said Vincent Casalaina of Image Integration. “I’m fighting to make that a reality, not just in California but across the United States. A truly democratic system works for everyone and makes business grow and prosper.”

“In my work I have seen how democracy can fail in countries such as Hungary and Turkey,” said Thiesen.  “In my professional opinion, America today faces a crisis of democracy. Politicians are undermining our democracy through voter suppression laws and false claims of election fraud, and by packing the courts with political loyalists, which undermines the Constitutional separation of powers. When we undermine democracy, we also undermine prosperity.”

“Protecting democracy ensures that the needs of under-resourced entrepreneurs are considered, and they have a voice,” said Pickman. “These entrepreneurs need leaders who are going to make policy that puts small businesses on equal footing with big corporations.”

Collaboratives are also being built in 8 other states as part of this American Sustainable Business Network campaign.


California Media Contact:

Heidi Pickman
VP, Engagement and External Relations

Cat Ulrich for CAMEO
(202) 630-7839


National Media Contact:
Frank Knapp

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