No Recount Needed: VenturePAC Wins Big

While the presidential election results continue to be as confusing as a Palm Beach County ballot, at least most of the candidates receiving financial support from the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) emerged as clear winners.

Of the 126 congressional candidates receiving soft money contributions from the NVCA?s political action committee during calendar year 2000, a whopping 108 are currently believed to have won their races.

The only unknown is whether incumbent Senator Slade Gorton (R-WA) has successfully held off a challenge from former Congresswoman and RealNetworks Inc. executive Maria Cantwell. The NVCA had supported Gorton with a $5,000 contribution.

“We?re very pleased by the results,” said Mark Heesen, president of the NVCA. “We looked at this many months ago and saw it would likely be a divided government, so we decided to give to both Democrats and Republicans with moderate pro-business views.”

It wasn?t completely even, however, as only 37 of the candidates receiving VenturePAC money were members of the Democratic Party. The other 88 were Republicans, except for incumbent Rep. Virgil Goode (I-VA).

Soft Money Fund-of-Funds?

In addition, VenturePAC sent $151,500 to a variety of other partisan PACS such as the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Republican Leadership Council. Some of the third party contributions also went to specific candidates, such as $5,000 to Rep. Tom Delay (R-TX) through the Americans for a Republican Majority. Other notable beneficiaries of this soft money fund-of-funds included Rep. David Dreier (R-CA), Rep. Tom Daschle (D-SD) and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-IL).

In addition, the NVCA provided cash to four senators who weren?t actually running for reelection this year, including Christopher Dodd (D-CT), Robert Bennett (R-UT), Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Charles Schumer (D-NY).

“Dodd was a special case because he had a huge event celebrating his 25 years in the Senate and he?s done so much for the high-tech industry,” Heesen explained. “A lot of the others were just because they had started fund raising a bit early.”

While the vast majority of VenturePAC candidates were incumbents ? 103 of the 126 ? there were a few notable challengers backed by VenturePAC. Felix Grucci (R-NY), Stewart Greenleaf (D-PA) and Chuck Yob (R-MI) all unseated sitting representatives, in part, with the help of the NVCA. In addition, the PAC supported an inordinate number of candidates vying for open seats such as failed Hillary Clinton (D-NY) opponent Rick Lazio (R-NY) and Jim Matheson (D-UT), who defeated Derek Smith (R-UT).

“We went into more open seats than virtually any other PAC of our size,” Heesen said. “We only gave to candidates we were excited about, but we held off on giving to people who we determined didn?t really need our help.”

Break It Down

In all, VenturePAC spent $44,000 on winning senatorial races (10 candidates), while spending $28,000 on losing campaigns (four candidates). It also spent $236,500 on 99 triumphant races for the U.S. House of Representatives, while pouring $73,000 into 17 unsuccessful outings.

Taking everything into consideration, VenturePAC has contributed $525,000 so far this year. It did not back any presidential candidates, nor did it finance any individual candidates on the state or local levels.

VenturePAC is funded through voluntary donations from the venture capital industry.Investing In Our Future

While the NVCA and various investment banks such as First Union Corp. and Goldman, Sachs & Co. were the primary private equity-related contributors to political campaigns this year, a number of well-known individuals also participated.

For example, nonprofit, nonpartisan watchdog group Common Cause lists Robert Davoli of Sigma Partners as contributing $105,000 to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in three separate payments. Others in the Common Cause database ? which does not include contributions made to particular candidates ? include: Thomas H. Lee with $100,000 to the DNC; Lionel Pincus with $25,000 to the DNC and Thomas Hicks with $25,000 to the Republican National Committee (RNC).

In terms of particular firms: $85,000 from Mayfield Fund went to the DNC; Venture Catalyst contributed $62,500 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee; and Patricof & Co. contributed a total of $52,500 to the DNC and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.