Huffpost Small Business

Presidential Campaign Debts Leave Small Business Owners Holding The Bag

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PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES SMALL BUSINESS
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney appears with U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann during a campaign event at Crofton Industries May 3, 2012 in Portsmouth, Virginia. Both politicians have stiffed small businesses in the past. | Getty Images

Michelle Bachmann spent $3,814 at Turf Cars last August for golf carts to schlepp her supporters around Iowa. Newt Gingrich reportedly racked up a hefty bill with Kingsbury Electronic Systems, which staged one of his Iowa campaign events.

But the owners of Turf Cars and Kingsbury are yet to be paid by the former presidential hopefuls, and they're not alone, according to a recent Politico report.

Despite pro-Main Street rhetoric, presidential candidates have a history of taking a long time to settle up with small businesses, as well as larger vendors. Just ask Larry Scheffler, whose Nevada printing company found itself $7,439.62 poorer because Gingrich still hadn't paid his bill months after the firm produced thousands of Newt 2012 campaign stickers, The Huffington Post reported in April.

"We got burned," Scheffler told HuffPost reporters at the time, adding Gingrich "couldn't care less about the small businesses he's ripping off."

Campaign spokesman R.C. Hammond told HuffPost in April that Newt 2012 was doing its best to pay people. "Vendors have been contacted," he said, "and we are paying bills as swiftly as we are able."

On Monday, Scheffler said he still hasn't seen a dime. "All the phone numbers have dried up and everyone has disappeared," he wrote in an email to HuffPost. "Another great con act from the guy who [sic] wanted to be President."

The Gingrich campaign is still $4.85 million in debt overall. “You have folks who are very understanding and we have folks expressing frustration,” Hammond told Politico. "If we could eliminate the debt overnight, we would. But realistically, this will take years."

It's not just also-rans who have trouble paying their bills; both current leading presidential contenders are hardly helping the situation as they hit up local businesses along the campaign trail.

Dianne Bauer, who opened up her Main Street Cafe to Mitt Romney in June for a roundtable discussion, said damaged property cost her business money. The next week, President Obama and his entourage left a D.C. restaurant without paying the check.

Small business owners continue to struggle, and customers are taking longer to pay up. Nearly 64 percent of the 850 small businesses surveyed last year by the National Federation of Independent Businesses reported having invoices that went unpaid for at least 60 days, and 20 percent said delinquencies were getting worse.

Those findings align with an earlier survey of 5,000 small businesses, 14 percent of which cited late payments as their biggest business challenge in 2010, up from 2 percent in 2008.

"The longer wait is taking its toll on the companies," the Wall Street Journal noted last month. Business owners "often have to borrow at costly rates to fill gaps in their cash flow between payments."

This article was updated to include comment from Larry Scheffler, founder of Las Vegas Color Graphics.

 
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