The venture capital community is upholding a tradition of bipartisanship, and a relatively low profile where campaign contributions are concerned, in this year’s election.
VCs, through the venture community’s Political Action Committee, known as VenturePAC, had committed $450,000 to candidates so far this year, up 51% from all of 1999, when the group contributed $298,000, according to the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA). VenturePAC expects to raise and distribute a total of $500,000 by year’s end, said Mark Heesen, president of the NVCA.
The committee gives to incumbents as well as newer candidates, Republicans and Democrats, Heesen said. “[The venture community is] not considered to be beholden to the Democratic or Republican Party,” Heesen said.
In fact, Alan Patricof, founder of Patricof & Co. Ventures Inc., Christopher Gabrieli, a partner at Bessemer Venture Partners, and Nancy Pfund, a managing director at Chase H&Q, all attended the Democratic National Convention.
Floyd Kvamme, chairman of VenturePAC and a partner at Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers, and Kathy Behrens, a managing director at RS Investment Management in California, were delegates at the Republican National Convention.
The parties don’t like it that the VC world is not decidedly for one camp or the other, Heesen said, “and that is how we want it to stay.”
VenturePAC targets individual candidates running in Federal elections, Heesen said. Traditionally, the group has given more to Republicans than to Democrats because by and large, Republicans have been more amenable to VC issues, he said. VenturePAC has a selection committee that determines which candidates should receive its funds.
VenturePAC, which has been around for about 10 years, is the largest political action committee dedicated to enhancing the political world of VCs and entrepreneurs. The group’s agenda includes establishing open trade policies, creating accounting rules that reflect the New Economy, updating patent and copyright laws and reforming the education system to produce a qualified work force, Heesen said.
The committee became active in 1996, when Proposition 211 – a proposal that made California state courts the venue of choice for securities-fraud lawsuits against a company located anywhere in the U.S., so long as shareholders live in the state – motivated VCs to become politically involved. Silicon Valley’s largest communities lobbied Capital Hill until both presidential candidates condemned the proposal.
Technology Network, commonly referred to as TechNet, based in Palo Alto, Calif., is another bipartisan political lobbying group for the high-tech community that focuses on similar issues to VenturePAC.
TechNet’s agenda includes reforming education, increasing the number of temporary visas for skilled workers and establishing permanent normal trade relations with China.