This is a little item from today's edition of The Sentinel-Record in Hot Springs. It illustrates the Republicans' high regard for owners of small businesses:What price for glory? Woman discovers Republican award would cost $500BY JAMES JENNINGSThe Sentinel-Record
When Deanna Ross checked her telephone messages on Oct. 12, she was in for a pleasant surprise.
She had a message from a woman who said that she was with U.S. Rep. Tom Reynolds’ office, and that the National Republican Congressional Committee, of which Reynolds, R-N.Y., is the chairman, wanted to recognize her with a prestigious award.
"We need to speak to you about a press release we want to send out," the message said. "We wanted to recognize you with our National Leadership Award."
Ross, who recently opened Javalicious coffee house with her husband Al, had no idea why she had been selected to receive such an award.
"I thought, ‘Wow, what an honor,’ " Deanna Ross said.
She has spent several years working with Alzheimer’s patients and thought possibly that one of the families had nominated her for the award.
When she returned the call the following morning, she learned more.
"They said I’d been selected to serve on some sort of leadership committee," Ross said. "I would receive a plaque and a gavel and have the opportunity to have dinner with the president."
What she found out next, though, changed her outlook.
Ross was told that the NRCC needed $500 in order for her to receive her award.
"I hung up," she said. "I was so discouraged."
Her husband was exasperated too.
"How is that an award if you’ve got to pay for it?" Al Ross asked. "I called them back and asked for a supervisor.
"I told them that it was a pretty low-down, terrible way to be raising funds for the Republican Party."
The supervisor told Al Ross that the program had been focusing on women business owners, explaining how Deanna Ross’ name was chosen.
A call placed by The Sentinel-Record to the number given in the original phone message revealed that the call was not going to Reynolds’ office, but a telemarketing firm in Toledo, Ohio, called InfoCision.
The representative, who did not give her name, said that Reynolds had contracted with the company to contact honorees.
The representative said that Deanna Ross had been selected to serve as an honorary cochairman on the NRCC’s Business Advisory Council, adding that any more information could be read on the council’s Web s i te .
According to the Web site, the council creates a "unique opportunity to forge a new and dynamic alliance between the Republican leadership and the small business community." An NRCC spokesman said that it is a legitimate program that has been in place for several years.
"It’s a grassroots program that enables us to identify members of the community who benefit from a Republican pro-business agenda," NRCC Spokesman Alex Burgos said. "There is no requirement to donate to the Republican Party to receive this honor."
Burgos added that honorees also are invited to dinners with the president twice a year.
"We ask money for that," he said, but did not say how much the dinners cost.
According to a 2003 Washington Post report on the Business Advisory Council, honorees are asked to pay between $1,250 and $5,000 each to attend these dinners.
The experience has left Al and Deanna Ross with a bitter taste in their mouths.
"I don’t even know who this Reynolds guy is," Deanna Ross said. "But, if that’s how he does business, he doesn’t need to be a congressman."
Al Ross added, "I’m not usu ally aligned with any particular party, but this was the last straw I’m not voting for any Republicans this year."