The Power 30 From the SBA to the House floor to the nation's airwaves: our guide to some of the most influential folks in and around the Beltway who talk your talk
By Maggie Overfelt with reporting by Beth Kwon and Jennifer Pendleton

(FORTUNE Small Business) – From outside the Beltway, the nation's capital looks like a maze run by hobbits who speak a strange language and indulge in strange rituals. What's scary is how much power they have to help or hinder your business. You can't afford to ignore Washington, and making your way around the place can be intimidating. Here's a list of influential insiders--most of whom work in D.C. You may not agree with them on all the issues. But they speak your language:

1 Jack Faris, president, National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). Pet issue: estate-tax reform. An acid-tongued insider as comfortable with the nation's chief executives as with Congressmen, Faris operates at the flash point where business meets politics. And he does it without getting singed. Biggest victory: He helped defeat health-care reform in the early 1990s. Now he's pushing to reform the tax code. At press time, it looked as if he'd be successful in his quest to kill off the estate tax.

2 Aida Alvarez, administrator, Small Business Administration (SBA). Pet issue: federal procurement programs. The first Hispanic woman to serve in a presidential Cabinet, this former television newscaster and investment banker introduced cutting-edge technology to the agency and more than doubled the volume of loans to women and minorities.

3 Christopher "Kit" Bond, Senator (R-Mo.) and chairman, Senate Committee on Small Business. Pet issue: anything about small business. Bond heads the committee with the greatest influence over small business policy in Congress (see "Your Man on the Hill," page 56). Biggest accomplishment to date: the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996. It's supposed to give the SBA more teeth in watching over agencies--especially the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)--and make sure those regulators don't conjure up rules that are overly unfair to small business.

4 Christopher Cox, Congressman (R-Calif.). Pet issue: Internet taxation. Known by colleagues as "Mr. Intellect" for his probing analyses of issues, he earned the admiration of the dot-com world when in 1998 he argued successfully in favor of keeping e-commerce free of taxes. Now influential, as chairman of the House Commerce Committee, in efforts to revisit the Web tax rumpus. Upcoming issue: promoting trade with Russia.

5 Harry Alford, president, National Black Chamber of Commerce. Pet issue: estate-tax reform. "America is only as strong as its weakest link, and African-Americans are its weakest link," says the charismatic Alford, who was named Minority Business Advocate of the Year in 1991 by the U.S. Department of Commerce. A veteran of consumer-products giant Procter & Gamble, he's on a crusade to promote black-owned businesses before Congress, and he works closely with the Small Business Survival Committee. The estate tax? He likes to call it a "legacy killer."

6 Terry Neese, lobbyist and co-founder of political consultancy GrassRoots Impact. Pet issue: federal procurement awards. A fierce and eloquent advocate for women business owners, Neese has testified before Congress more than a dozen times in the past two years. Current goal: to boost the number of federal contracts awarded to women-run firms. Besides working in the past with the National Association of Women Business Owners, Neese currently numbers among her clients the National Business Association and the National Association for the Self-Employed.

7 James Talent, Congressman (R-Mo.) and chairman, House Committee on Small Business. Pet issue: tax cuts. Talent will leave Congress after four terms to run for governor of his home state, but he has earned a rep for elevating the House Committee on Small Business, which some conservative Republicans argued should be disbanded. Talent has been known to step aside and give lobbyists an hour of his time, and his staff is considered one of the better on the Hill: smart, savvy, accessible.

8 Nydia Velazquez, Congresswoman (D-N.Y.). Pet issue: pensions for small businesses. The ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Small Business (currently the only woman to hold a ranking minority position on a full committee in either house), she has blasted the federal government for failing to give small business more federal contracts.

9 Jere Glover, chief counsel in the SBA's Office of Advocacy. Pet issue: anything about small business. This regulatory watchdog, a former entrepreneur, claims to have saved small business billions of dollars by challenging--and helping to defeat--proposed new rules from the EPA and OSHA. Notable achievement: This Clinton appointee is helping to make it easier for angel networks to be created across the U.S. by broadening the scope of the SBA's Angel Capital Electronic Network (ACE-Net), a government program that links investors and entrepreneurs.

10 Mario Trevino, acting associate administrator of the SBA. Pet issue: government certification. Trevino oversaw the revamping of the agency's federal contracting programs, which make it easier for minority- and women-owned small businesses to get certified to bid on government jobs. Besides traveling to cities outside the usual territory (the Northeast corridor) to find small businesses that would benefit, he's a matchmaker. Trevino also helps small businesses create partnerships with big companies who have already secured contracts with the government.

11 Todd McCracken, president, National Small Business United, an advocacy group of 65,000 members. Pet issue: health-care reform. Head of the nation's oldest small business advocacy group, he keeps a close watch on regulatory efforts by the EPA and OSHA that are costly to small business.

12 Karen Kerrigan, chairman, Small Business Survival Committee, a 60,000-member lobbying group. Pet issue: tax reform. A fiercely passionate advocate for women-owned businesses, Kerrigan has been beating the drum for creative tax reform (fighting for the FairTax Act) because she thinks the current tax code strangles small business. She also rallies for medical savings accounts for all small companies.

13 Craig Brightup, associate executive director, government relations, National Roofing Contractors Association. Pet issue: work-safety regulation. Builders rely on Brightup to put the damper on the ever-growing labyrinth of workplace regulations, which cost them billions each year. Regulators like him for his easy-going and collaborative style.

14 Mark Heesen, president, National Venture Capital Association, a 400-member trade group. Pet issue: New Economy accounting methods. Heesen fights for reforms that make it easier for entrepreneurs and venture capitalists to launch and foster startups. A key victory: He successfully lobbied for the 1995 securities reform bill that curbed "frivolous" shareholder lawsuits.

15 Grover Norquist, president, Americans for Tax Reform, a 100,000-member lobbying group. Pet issue: estate-tax reform. Constituents and colleagues say the world is a safer place when Norquist, a trench warfarer when it comes to tax issues, takes a stand. He has been known to rally an army of grassroots supporters to pressure legislators. Latest accomplishment: He helped stave off e-commerce tax proponents for five years.

16 Jonathan Zuck, president, Association for Competitive Technology (ACT), a 9,000-member advocacy group. Pet issues: Internet taxation and privacy. A former software developer with very deep connections in Silicon Valley, Zuck is well known for his ability to translate technology talk into layman's language. During the Microsoft trial, he was a vocal critic of the government's case, arguing that the software Goliath has been a friend, not a foe, to tech entrepreneurs (no surprise, given that ACT is heavily financed by Microsoft).

17 Peter Barca, former ombudsman of the SBA. Pet issue: export-import improvements. As Clinton's guru of international trade, Barca helped establish 15 centers to aid small companies in boosting exports and improving international relations. He is seen as a key adviser to business on export-import issues.

18 Steven C. Anderson, president, National Restaurant Association, a 180,000-member trade group. Pet issue: labor shortage. This lobbyist's goal is to make sure lawmakers are mindful of the economic impact of the $376 billion restaurant industry. A recent coup: repeal of the Social Security Earnings Limit, which cut benefits to certain retirees if they earned more than $17,000 a year.

19 Kay Koplovitz, CEO, Web portal Working Woman Network. Pet issue: increasing funding for women's tech startups. This cable and Internet entrepreneur is using her prodigious financial clout and connections to kick up a whole lot of dust in the old-boy network of venture capitalism. Her latest project: Springboard 2000, a forum that matches women-led tech companies with venture capital firms and angel investors.

20 Weldon Latham, senior partner, law firm Holland & Knight in D.C. Pet issue: government contracts for minority-owned businesses. Latham's influence extends to the highest office in the land. The Democratic Party fundraiser is an informal adviser to President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore. A longtime advocate of minority-owned businesses, Latham is general counsel for the National Coalition of Minority Business, and he's on the National Advisory Council of the SBA.

21 Emilia DiSanto, staff director, office of Sen. Kit Bond. Pet issue: estate-tax reform. Constituents and lobbyists rave about her ability to cut through red tape and get answers--by the end of the day--on any matter involving small business.

22 Jennifer Dunn, Congresswoman (R-Wash.). Pet issue: IRAs for homemakers. So partisan that she named her youngest son Reagan, this former IBM systems engineer is pushing for Social Security reforms that would benefit older working businesswomen. Hailed as a tech-company hero by many of her constituents in the Pacific Northwest, Dunn's speeches are often peppered with references to her struggles as a single working mother. Who wouldn't listen?

23 Tom Sullivan, executive director, NFIB Legal Foundation. Pet issue: Superfund reform. An affable lawyer, he's respected by regulators for his well-researched positions on issues affecting small business. Sullivan lobbied on regulatory issues for the NFIB before recruiting an all-star team for the recently formed Legal Foundation.

24 Ben Isaacson, executive director, Association for Interactive Media. Pet issue: Internet tax and privacy. Representing 550 corporate members, Isaacson led the charge to fend off taxation of e-commerce from his position on the Advisory Committee on Electronic Commerce. Besides working to ensure that more companies have Internet access, this former Congressional intern is lobbying for legislation that would restrict unsolicited bulk e-mail, or "spam."

25 Kent Hoover, Washington bureau chief, American City Business Journals. Pet issues: health care, estate tax, OSHA. This newshound makes tracks over issues of interest to small business in his weekly column, which reaches the Journals' half-million subscribers.

26 Jim Blasingame, radio talk-show host. Pet issue: how to help small businesses make payroll every Friday. On weekday mornings, Blasingame broadcasts business advice to 21 radio markets from Washington to Kansas City. At least once a month, he features small business advocates to talk about policy in D.C. Hot topics: raising capital and hiring.

27 William Wetzel Jr., professor emeritus of business administration, University of New Hampshire. Pet issue: government aid for startups. Wetzel gets most of the credit for starting ACE-Net, the government-sponsored electronic system that helps tech startups raise money. Besides developing the software for the database-matching program, he worked with the SBA to establish the cross-country network.

28 Robert Morgan, president, Council of Growing Companies, a 1,200-member advocacy group. Pet issue: tax reform. His CEO roundtables (forums for new and old entrepreneurs) make it less lonely at the top. Among participants: Ron Olson, CEO of Grow Biz International. Morgan fights for entrepreneurs' rights, such as protection of intellectual property, and takes credit for educating policymakers on what it's like to be a serial CEO in the New Economy.

29 John Satagaj, president, Small Business Legislative Council, an association coalition. Pet issue: tax reform. A respected voice on the Hill for small businesses, this tax lawyer (who focuses on ten issues at a time) led the effort last year to bar the federal government from imposing ergonomics standards on home offices. Next: an effort to restore the installment method of accounting so small businesses won't have to face big taxes when they sell.

30 Mark Gitenstein, partner, law firm Mayer, Brown & Platt in D.C. Pet issue: clarifying accounting methods. Gitenstein helped introduce startup-friendly securities reform. On his agenda: battling the Financial Accounting Standards Board over its proposal to eliminate rules that make it easier for startups to grow by acquisition.