Politics

Genius advisers or just Dem donors? President Obama dines with San Francisco tech moguls

Amanda Carey Contributor

On Thursday night, President Obama flew to San Francisco from Washington for a meeting with technology entrepreneurs. The White House called the meeting part of an “ongoing dialogue with the business community” on how they can “work together” to rebuild the economy, support entrepreneurship and focus on innovation and research.

The meeting is the latest in a series of overtures Obama has made toward business leaders. But this time, the president met with a few old friends from 2008 — so was it actually a meeting to shore up funds for a 2012 re-election campaign?

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters, “It’s not a fundraiser,” but the list of attendees, which included several big Democratic donors and people have a history of relying on government to further their business, suggests otherwise.

One of the attendees of the private dinner meeting was Reed Hastings, the chief executive of Netflix. According to opensecrets.org, Hastings donated about $50,000 to Democratic causes during the 2010 election cycle. Also in 2010, Netflix officially planted itself inside the beltway by hiring its first full-time D.C.-based lobbyist.

Eric Schmidt, the outgoing chief executive of Google, was also in attendance. Schmidt gave about $45,000 to Democratic committees or candidates in 2010. He also publicly endorsed and campaigned for the president in 2008, and was an informal adviser during the transition.

Schmidt is an ardent support of renewable energy. His wife Wendy Schmidt contributed $500,000 to defeat Proposition 23 in California, a ballot measure in 2010 that would have stalled implementation of the state’s greenhouse-gas regulations until unemployment was down.

Another attendee was Steve Westly, a managing partner and founder of the Westly Group. According to OpenSecrets, Westly gave $500,000 to Obama’s campaign. Steve Jobs, chief executive of Apple, was also at the meeting. In the 20 years between 1990 and 2010, Jobs donated more than $250,000 to political causes – all of them Democratic.

Then there’s venture capitalist John Doerr of Silicon Valley-based Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers. As The Daily Caller has reported in the past, Doerr has a track record of donating to Democratic candidates, then heavily lobbying them for climate-change policies such as cap and trade. Since 2009, Doerr has been a member of the President’s Economic Recovery Board.

According to White House pool reports, Thursday night’s meeting took place at Doerr’s home about 25 miles south of San Francisco.

The aforementioned business leaders have another thing in common: Almost all of them, along with Doerr, support renewable energy technology. That connection has not gone unnoticed by some, who suspect the meeting was also about what private businesses can do to further the clean technology agenda Obama laid out in his State of the Union speech.

“President Obama’s clean energy goals are in direct alignment with the business interests of the social and political elite,” said Tom Borelli, the director for the National Center for Public Policy Research’s Free Enterprise Project.

“It’s a marriage of political and financial convenience. For example, John Doerr, Al Gore’s venture capital business partner, has bet heavily on renewable energy and he needs Obama to come through with laws to bailout those investments,” Borelli added.

He noted that no one from the oil and natural gas industries was invited to the closed-door meeting.

Others present at the meeting include Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter Chief Executive Dick Costolo, and Yahoo’s Barol Bartz. John Chambers, the chief executive of Cicso Systems was present, and he has donated in the past to more Republican causes.