Liberal VCs, (More) Conservative CEOs: A Who’s Who of Presidential Campaign Donors in the Boston Innovation Community

6/3/08Follow @bbuderi

Leading partners from top Boston venture firms have given more than three times as much money to Democratic presidential candidates (3.3 times as much to be more precise) as they have to Republican candidates. That’s even more lopsided than the roughly 2.3-to-1 ratio for notoriously liberal Massachusetts residents as a whole, according to Federal Election Commission figures. What’s more, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney was the only Republican to receive any money at all from the leading venture partners we studied.

Those were just two of the findings from our survey of campaign donations by leading Bay State executives and venture leaders (read on for details about our methods). Republicans fared much better among top technology and life sciences CEOs. But even there, Obama and the Democrats came out ahead, although area CEOs spread the cash around more evenly, and to more candidates, than did venture capital executives.

McCain, Obama, and Clinton are the three contenders still standing (though Clinton is obviously teetering). But lest we forget them, Biden, Dodd, Edwards, Giuliani, Huckabee, Kucinich, Paul, Richardson, Romney, Thompson, and a half dozen or so others also joined the fray. So, with today’s contests in New Mexico (Republicans only), South Dakota, and Montana marking the last of the presidential primaries, we thought it was a good time to ask who among the leading presidential candidates—and among those who failed to make it this far— garnered the most support from leaders of the Massachusetts innovation community. More to the point, whose campaigns have aforementioned Bay State innovators opened their wallets for—and how much have they shelled out?

Xconomy found the answers—as can anyone, since they are public records—in the FEC database. Of course, there are many leaders in the innovation community: executives at large companies, government officials, entrepreneurs, professors, and others. To make our survey as fair and objective as possible, we confined our hunt to two groups of business and innovation leaders. First were the CEOs of 40 top Massachusetts high-tech companies: the top 20 in technology and the top 20 in life sciences as listed in the Boston Globe‘s Massachusetts Technology Index and Massachusetts Life Sciences Index. The second group consisted of the founders or managing directors/managing partners of 30 top venture capital firms based in New England, or with a significant presence here. This field was derived from the Boston Business Journal‘s list of the area’s top 25 venture and private equity firms, coupled to, and updated with, our own database.

All told, these groups included about 120 names. But before we dive into the list, let’s take a quick look at campaign contributions overall, and at a few trends we noticed in the individual contributions.

First, nationwide, Democratic candidates had raised $569 million as of June 2, compared to $341 million for Republicans. Obama led the way with $265 million raised. Next came Clinton, with $215 million. In third place, the top Republican, was Mitt Romney, with just $105 million, compared to $91 million for fourth-place John McCain.

In the Bay State, the split between Dems and Republicans is wider—with Democrats drawing $15.6 million, more than double the $6.9 million attracted by Republicans. Obama, in fact, has garnered more in Massachusetts by himself ($8.6 million) than the entire Republican field. Clinton was a distant second, with $5.2 million, followed by Romney’s $3.9 million and McCain’s $1.8 million.

In our own survey of innovation leaders, the numbers were different on several fronts. First, it should be noted that among the 40 CEOs and roughly 80 VCs we looked at, only a quarter (11 CEOs, 20 VCs) donated to any presidential candidate.

As mentioned, the VCs who did donate went overwhelmingly Democratic, more so than Massachusetts residents as a whole. All told, they contributed $44,260 to Democrats, versus just to $13,200 to Republicans, all of which went to Romney.

Obama was the clear choice among local VCs, taking in $30,860, with Christopher Dodd coming in second, at $9,400. Bill Richardson was third with $3,000, and Clinton attracted only $1,000.

CEOs supported the candidates more evenly. For starters, despite totaling roughly half the numbers of VCs, they gave to eight different candidates, compared to five for VCs. Obama again topped the list, with $13,800. But McCain was number two, with $10,240. And overall, Democrats barely beat their Republican counterparts, collecting $22,200 compared to the Republicans’ $20,440.

Here are the group tallies:

CEO contributions:

Obama — $13,800
McCain — $10,240
Romney — $6,900
Dodd — $4,600
Richardson — $2,800
Giuliani — $2,300
Thompson — $1,000
Clinton — $1,000

VC contributions:

Obama — $30,860
Romney — $13,200
Dodd — $9,400
Richardson — $3,000
Clinton — $1,000

Six CEOs and four VCs gave to more than one candidate, with four giving to candidates in both parties. The top contributor in the entire pool was David Cutler of Cambridge venture firm General Catalyst, who donated a total of $7,700 to four campaigns—three Democratic and one Republican.

Our full lists begin after the jump. Election laws limit individual contributions to $2,300 per candidate per election. But primaries, runoffs, and general elections are considered separate elections—so you will often see figures of twice that amount.

… Next Page »

Bob is Xconomy's founder and editor in chief. You can e-mail him at bbuderi@xconomy.com, call him at 617.500.5926. Follow @bbuderi

Single Page Currently on Page: 1 2 3

By posting a comment, you agree to our terms and conditions.