Entrepreneurs Hope Ally Klobuchar Has Future Role to Help Enact Their Agenda
WASHINGTON — For the past few weeks, John Dearie, the founder of the nonprofit Center for American Entrepreneurship, has clung to a dream. His handpicked co-chair of the Senate Entrepreneurship Caucus, Minnesota Democrat Amy Klobuchar, might become the next vice president of the United States.
In the summer of 2018, long before Klobuchar entered the presidential race, Dearie recruited her and Sen. Tim Scott, a South Carolina Republican and former owner of an insurance agency, to serve as the leaders of the newly formed group dedicated to removing barriers for startups.
“We didn’t want this to be a caucus for white men,” he said, adding that he’d heard the two lawmakers were “well-liked, knowledgeable and got things done.”
Six months later, Klobuchar announced her presidential bid. On Feb. 11, she finished a strong third in the New Hampshire primary. With her home state of Minnesota holding its primary March 3, Klobuchar seemed to peak at the right time.
“I felt like the owner of a racehorse that was about to win the prize,” Dearie said in an interview. While he stressed that his organization is nonpartisan and doesn’t endorse candidates, he admitted he was thrilled by the idea “of all the things we could get done if she’s in the White House.”
Klobuchar exited the presidential race the day before Super Tuesday, endorsing Joe Biden. Her departure was sobering, but Dearie continues to have national ambitions for his agenda.
Having Biden pick Klobuchar as his running mate would be the easiest way to achieve them. In the meantime, Dearie hopes to realize them through that perennial Capitol Hill institution — the caucus.
Dearie, 55, projects a dynamic air. The former high school football player speaks in great bursts, punching the air for emphasis. He got interested in startups from the unlikely perch of the Financial Services Forum, which lobbies for Wall Street bank CEOs, where he served as chairman. This was during the height of the Great Recession, and he was amazed that none of Washington’s policy prescriptions cut the jobless rate.
As a private citizen, Dearie has donated money to numerous lawmakers, mostly Democrats.
He came across data from the U.S. Census and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation that showed that early stage businesses or startups generated the vast majority of new jobs in the country.
“When they control for age, the real difference is companies created within one year,” Dearie said. “Which makes sense; these companies created a new product or service that wasn’t on the market before and needed to hire people.”
In 2011, Dearie and Courtney Geduldig, a former Financial Services Forum lobbyist, toured the country to talk with entrepreneurs. They reached two broad conclusions: Startups had no real voice on Capitol Hill; and Washington lawmakers paid attention to corporations and small businesses, who were their constituents and often donors.
In 2013, they released their book, “Where the Jobs Are: Entrepreneurship and the Soul of the American Economy,” which featured an afterword from Sens. Jerry Moran, a Kansas Republican, and Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat. After Dearie stepped down from his job in 2017, he formed the Center for American Entrepreneurship, which is underwritten by Wells Fargo, among others.
The way Dearie saw it, his job was to connect Capitol Hill with capital-starved startups. He approached Klobuchar the following year to co-chair what would become the Senate Entrepreneurship Caucus.
While Dearie pitched startups as an aid to female and minority entrepreneurs, he said Klobuchar viewed them as salve for businesses in heartland states such as hers. She and Scott signed on, and 12 more senators followed. Several interest groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, are informal sponsors.
In a statement last March, Klobuchar said the caucus would “allow Congress to work with entrepreneurs across the country to stimulate innovation, create jobs and move our country forward.”
Before the coronavirus pandemic deeply affected the economy, Dearie said the U.S. system was beset by three main flaws: A slowing economic growth rate, geographic inequality in where venture capital invested and an overall decline in entrepreneurial activity.
To fix those problems, Dearie argues that the federal government should adopt a comprehensive policy for startups and entrepreneurs similar to that in Israel.
That country’s government started a business incubator program for early-stage companies and gave tax incentives to foreign venture capital funds to invest in Israeli businesses.
Dearie hopes Congress can help carry out his vision.
In November, the Senate Commerce Committee approved a Klobuchar-Scott measure that would order the Commerce Department to study the decline of startups.
The previous month, Dearie helped form the House Entrepreneurship Caucus. Chris Slevin, president of the Entrepreneurship Innovation Group, credits the Senate Entrepreneurship Caucus for helping him generate support for legislation to limit employers from using non-compete agreements when hiring workers.
“It’s a platform to educate members,” Slevin said of the caucus.
And Dearie has not given up on his White House dream, or a version of it. With Biden pledging to pick a woman to be his running mate, Klobuchar, an experienced senator from a Midwestern swing state, has a lot going for her in the veepstakes. “There’s appeal to having her on the ticket,” he said.
©2020 CQ-Roll Call, Inc., All Rights Reserved
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
In The News
WASHINGTON (AP) — Former President Barack Obama is taking on an increasingly public role as the nation confronts a confluence of historic crises that has exposed deep racial and socioeconomic inequalities in America and reshaped the November election. In doing so, Obama is signaling a willingness... Read More
WASHINGTON (AP) — In an extraordinary rebuke, former defense secretary Jim Mattis on Wednesday denounced President Donald Trump's heavy-handed use of military force to quell protests near the White House and said his former boss was setting up a “false conflict" between the military and civilian... Read More
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is expected to announce plans Thursday to remove one of the country’s most iconic monuments to the Confederacy, a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee along Richmond’s prominent Monument Avenue, a senior administration official told The Associated Press.... Read More
CANNON BEACH, Ore. (AP) — As the coronavirus raced across America, this quaint seaside town did what would normally be unthinkable for a tourist destination. Spooked by a deluge of visitors, the tiny Oregon community shooed people from its expansive beaches and shut down hundreds of... Read More
WASHINGTON — The Senate Intelligence Committee backed new protections for intelligence community whistleblowers and new reporting requirements for political campaigns as part of a broader intelligence authorization bill. The legislation, approved 14-1 by the panel on Wednesday, follows President Donald Trump repeatedly lashing out at a... Read More
WASHINGTON — The policy ideas Democratic members of Congress will propose this month to address deadly police force have been around for years, but so has the opposition from law enforcement advocacy groups and the lawmakers who support them. Rep. Steve Cohen first filed a bill... Read More