Every year, we ask candidates for the Top 100 Most Influential who they think has the most influence. While we had roughly the same number of candidates offer their opinions this year (102, against 105 last year), they named far fewer people as influential (82, against last year's 117) - and their choices indicate that the economic crisis has focused their minds on both the need for leadership and the power of government.

As usual, American Institute of CPAs president Barry Melancon topped the list by a wide margin, with candidates citing his deep knowledge of and passion for the profession, as well as his vision for its future.

With the vast size of the government response to the recession, and the highly charged atmosphere around accounting standards, it's no surprise that the next five vote-getters were all regulators, government fig­ures or standard-setters. What was unique, though, was the voting for President Obama, as no president has ever polled so high among T100 candidates - though it must be pointed out that many thought his influence would be negative, with his policies damaging the economy.

With their attention focused on leaders both national and professional, some candidates noted that two positions of significant potential influence were unfilled at the time we asked our question - the chairmanship of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, and the chief accountant slot at the SEC. Fortunately for them, Daniel Goelzer has since been named acting chair at the PCAOB, and James Kroeker has been elevated from acting to official SEC chief accountant.

(c) 2009 Accounting Today and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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