Press Release
July 6, 2022

Protecting Democracy Mission of New AZ Small Business Collaborative

(Phoenix, AZ)—A new Arizona 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 Bob Sommer of Changing Hands Bookstore, one of the AZ Business for Democracy collaborative leaders. “Small business owners know what happens under autocracy and one-party rule—that any small business that is at all successful is available for the taking by deep-pocketed corporations. Entrepreneurship and whole economies wither and 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,” said Carlos Velasco of Novle, another collaborative leader.

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 AZ 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 Cynthia Phillips, Founder of 22nd Century by Design. “Our democracy and economy are at stake.”

“Nothing is as toxic to democracy as censorship,” said Sommer. “Those who would destroy our democracy and limit our freedoms always start with censorship of journalists, libraries, bookstores, classrooms and recently, social media. Bookstores like mine will be among the first to go under autocratic rule. Democracy is not only important to me as a business owner but even more so as a citizen who hopes that his children and grandchildren will be able to enjoy life in an informed community of free, kind, and caring people.”

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


Arizona Media Contact:
Gayle Shanks
(480) 540-5652


National Media Contact:
Frank Knapp

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