Recent coverage has shed light on Obama’s connections to two individuals specifically: Steve Westly and John Doerr. The latter is a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm whose portfolio includes16 recipients of federal money under the Obama administration.
“Doerr is helping to create the biggest new market the world has seen since the dawn of the oil industry – and asking for taxpayer dollars to do it,” Conde Nast Portfolio’s Russ Mitchell wrote in 2007.
Two years later, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Doerr saw hope of a revived green energy industry under Obama. He “has been meeting with Obama’s transition team and leaders in Congress to urge them to use the new economic stimulus package to modernize the electric grid and offer new incentives to help clean energy startups get off the ground.” And that is just what they did, to the benefit of numerous KPCB investments. Doerr, meanwhile, sat on the president’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board, advising the administration on how to spend stimulus dollars.
Westly, who bundled between $700,000 and $1 million for Obama’s two campaigns and sits on an Energy Department advisory board, also unabashedly mixes politics and business. His venture capital firm, the Westly Group, saw federal green energy dollars steered to at least four companies in its portfolio.
“Government is not always bad and especially for something that is going to affect your business, you should be involved with it,” Westly reportedly told Marc Tarpenning, founder of Westly Group investment Tesla Motors. “He encouraged us to think about Washington,” Tarpenning said.
While Westly and Doerr are high-profile examples of what can fairly be termed “venture corporatists” – VC executives who see government support as integral to a successful investment strategy – other examples have received little scrutiny, even as the presidential campaign has focused more attention on “crony capitalism.”