Nydia Takes Care of Her (very different) People

Nydia Velazquez is committed to serving both the the poorest and richest members of society, it seems.

A look a the congresswoman’s voting record proves that Ms Velazquez takes care of the most vulnerable citizens -the very old, very sick, very young, very new to America – while a glimpse at the congresswoman’s donor list shows just who’s taking care of Ms Velazquez.

According to OpenSecrets, Nydia raised $838,912 in the 2010 election, none of which came from her own pocket. Top donors (both individual and PAC support) by industry for Ms Velazquez were Securities and Investment, Health Professionals and Commercial Banks.

Understanding how a liberal-minded, minority-identity politician like Ms Velazquez can be conscious of the interests of the richest and the poorest segments of society at the same time has been challenging for me.  But I think I now get how committee participation has helped smooth out the kinks which come from the pressures of these different interests.

The Senate just passed a bill that amends the Small Business Act (the Act) to reauthorize through FY2019 the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs of the Small Business Administration (SBA).

Nydia Velazquez and current Small Business Committee Chair (and republican) Sam Graves are both thrilled with the passage of the SBIR/STTR re authorization bill because it puts money- and opportunity- into the hands of small businesses (many of whom, Nydia hopes will be minority or women run as that has been her push and focus). The initial authorization ended in 2003 when an administrative judge said that the research firms benefiting from the grants failed to qualify as a small businesses as defined by the landmark Small Business Act of 1958.

Wait a minute; that doesn’t seem like a Ms Velazquez move to give small biz funding to already established (wealthy) business, does it?

It turns out, the firms that were in question in 2003, and want to now regain funding were venture capitalists. And venture capitalists are part of the Investment and Securities industry, and specifically contributed just under 15,000 to Velaquez’s last campaign.

It’s starting to make sense now.

Before the bill left the House, there was a proposed amendment that limited VC firms to receiving only 25% of the possible grants. At the Small Business Committee hearing on March 23 reviewing the bill, Ms Velazquez made it very clear that limiting the amount allocated for venture capitalists was not a good idea:

(To expert witness Dr Audretsch of Indiana University, ) “Under the current eligibility rules it is possible for a business with 222 employees and a net worth of $43m like Dr. Squillante’s company (another expert witness present at the hearing) to receive and SBIR grant. However a company with 5 employees and only $1m in net worth could be ineligible for these type of grants because it is majority owned by a venture capital company. So my question to you is does this seem like a fair and equitable system?

Later in a closing remark outlining her position that VC firms shouldn’t be exempted from parts of the funding Ms Velazquez said:

We all want to get this reauthorization done. But if we’re gonna authorize this for 10 – 14 years, we gotta do it right and it has to be in a way that works, and works for the small firms otherwise we cannot abdicate our responsibility in this committee. Thank you.

Of the congresswoman’s VC advocacy,  Rick Shindell of SBIR Insider Newsletter wrote “The word compromise does not seem to exist in Velazquez’s lexicon, as she again demonstrated in the hearing, displaying no interest in the Senate’s 25% VC compromise worked out with BIO, NVCA, SBTC and others.”

Nydia doesn’t take no as an answer when it comes to her base. Rich or poor.

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