Why Cleantech Investors Love & Back Obama

Presidential hopeful Barack Obama’s green energy platform has gained him fans among that industry’s most powerful players — its investors (see chart below). According to the presidential campaign donation database of the Center for Responsive Politics, the investors backing cleantech companies are backing Obama as well, over six times that of John McCain.

We ran through the donation database the names of over a hundred investors that have led the funding of at least one cleantech company and came up with 25 names that have also contributed money to either the Obama or McCain campaigns. The individual contributions themselves were small (the max is $2,300 for the primary and general election), but the discrepancy was huge — $55,500 to Obama and $8,900 to McCain. (See our chart below the jump). That’s more than 6 to 1 for Obama, and a lot higher than the national split; as of June 30 of this year, Obama had raised $339.22 million and McCain had raised just $145.47 million.

It’s hardly surprising that those pushing next-generation alternative energy projects are placing their bets on Obama. The Illinois senator has proposed doling out $150 billion over 10 years to fund projects in a broad swath of cleantech sectors, including biofuels, plug-in hybrids, clean coal, smart grid and renewable energy. He’s also calling for a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 and plans to introduce a cap-and-trade system to manage carbon emissions. McCain has a less aggressive emissions reduction plan, and has been a big advocate of building out nuclear to provide clean power. [digg=http://digg.com/2008_us_elections/Why_Cleantech_Investors_Love_and_Back_Obama]

The cleantech investors that donated to Obama said they did so because Obama’s clean energy plans are just that much more aggressive and forward-thinking than those of McCain. Jon Staenberg, a partner with Rustic Canyon Partners who donated $2,300, told us that Obama’s stance on cleantech was “at the center” of his belief in him:

“I believe leadership in cleantech is the tidal wave (bigger than IT was/is) that can propel this country back to a position of world leadership and enable a more peaceful planet. With Gore advising him and his personal commitment to this area, he continues to get my support.”

And Mohr Davidow partner Josh Green, who donated $2,300, said one of his motivations for backing Obama was the candidate’s aggressive energy plan:

It is a plan which transitions us away from fossil fuels far more aggressively than Senator McCain’s plan in terms of time and dollars. It also focuses as much on the long term as the short term. This is critical to give investors assurances that his programs will remain stable over an extended period, and allow large investments to be made in reliance upon such programs.

Paul Holland, a partner with Foundation Capital, attributed his $2,300 donation to dissatisfaction with the policies of the current administration:

Generally speaking, cleantech investors are by definition very interested in the environment, carbon management and energy policy. Many of us are dissatisfied with the current administration’s positions on these topics and for better or worse, Senator McCain is closely identified as being generally supportive of those policies. Senator Obama offers a clean break from the current administration and so I believe that many of us are giving him the benefit of doubt for that reason among many others.

But for some cleantech investors, the progressive energy plan is just a small part of Obama’s overall appeal. Steve Jurvetson, a partner with Draper Fisher Jurvetson, who donated $4,600 said he is simply supportive of what Obama represents. “He ignites the imagination,” Jurvetson told us. “I think I am mainly drawn to him because of his skill at symbolic leadership – to rebuild brand America and the American Dream, and to garner respect on the world stage. And I respect his process of thinking and synthesis of divergent views.”

Image courtesy of Steve Jurvetson’s Flickr feed.

First Last Investment Firm Obama McCain
Jeff Barnes Clean Pacific Ventures $500
Forest Baskett New Enterprise Associates $2,300
David Blood Generation Investment $2,300
Jack Crawford Velocity Venture Partners $1,300
Fahri Diner Sigma Partners $2,300
John Fisher DFJ $2,300
Nancy Floyd Nth Power $2,300
Josh Green Mohr Davidow $2,300
Paul Holland Foundation Capital $2,300
Steve Jurvetson DFJ $4,600
Oleg Kaganovich DFJ Frontier $500
Vinod Khosla Khosla Ventures $2,300 $4,600
Justin Label Bessemer Venture Partners $2,300
Jim Matheson Flagship Ventures $2,000
Chuck McDermott Rockport Capital Partners $2,300
Michael Moritz Sequoia Capital $2,300
Elon Musk Private Investor $2,300
Sunil Paul Spring Ventures $4,600
Nate Redmond Rustic Canyon Partners $1,800
Zeb Rice Angeleno Group $2,100
Scott Sandell New Enterprise Associates $2,300 $1,000
Ted Schlein Kleiner Perkins $4,600
Jon Staenberg Rustic Canyon Partners $2,300
Daniel Weiss Angeleno Group $2,300
Tom Unterman Rustic Canyon Partners $2,300
Total $55,500 $8,900
The max donation for the primary and general election is $2,300 each — so $4,600 for both.
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