In 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned the country of what he called the “military-industrial complex,” a reference to the growing relationship between the military industry in the private sector and the federal government. Today, there is another industrial complex taking shape. Only this time, the president is not warning anyone about it – he’s actually directly involved in its growth.
One may call it the “green industrial complex.”
Enter John Doerr, a billionaire venture capitalist at the Silicon Valley firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers (KPCB). There, Doerr has been responsible for the firm’s successful investments in companies like Compaq, Intuit, AOL, Amazon, Netscape and Google.
No one would argue that Doerr hasn’t earned his spot on Forbes magazine’s annual richest people in the world list. However, in recent years, Doerr has redirected his talent from picking out successful start-up companies to successfully lobbying the Obama administration into supporting “green” initiatives.
While Doerr considers himself “a raging capitalist,” what he has been doing the last few years may be more akin to crony capitalism. With his lobbying, political advising and picky investing, Doerr has been one of the main movers behind green policy initiatives in Washington D.C, creating a web of players within a new industrial complex of green initiatives and renewable energy. He’s also been one of the biggest profiteers from it.
Since 2000, Doerr and his wife Anne have donated approximately $800,000 to Democrats. Moreover, KPCB has donated more than a million dollars to Democrats since 2005. Doerr has since been rewarded by being given at least some input in shaping the administration’s economic policy. In February 2009, President Obama named Doerr to the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board (PERAB).
“I think Doerr, like most, supports people he knows will support him,” Chris Horner, senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, told The Daily Caller.
“He [Doerr] is invaluable to them as a committee hearing witness. And, because they [politicians] are promoting the coercive transfer of wealth to ‘investments’ of his – investments that he made on the cheap because they’re uneconomic, but can reap tremendous ‘rents’ if their agenda of taking effective control of the energy sector is affected – they are invaluable to him,” said Horner.
He added, “I don’t know if he has been trading tit for tat, but it is clearly a mutual benefits society.”
In the stimulus bill that passed Congress, $86 billion was earmarked for “green initiatives,” something that was heavily lobbied for by Doerr. The Department of Energy (DOE) was then put in charge of choosing which companies to award grants to.
However, close examination of those companies who have so far received grants reveals that KPCB venture companies – businesses in which Doerr has a vested financial interest – have received a large portion of the DOE’s fund.
Fisker Automotive is one example. In 2008, KPCB added Fisker to its portfolio of investment ventures. And last September, the automaker received a $529 million grant to manufacture a hybrid sports car called the Fisker Karma.