Brad's Books and Organizations

Books

Books

Organizations

Organizations

Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

« swipe left for tags/categories

swipe right to go back »

How The SEC Is Violating My Wife’s First Amendment Rights

Comments (26)

Over the past 24 months, a deplorable activity in the money management business came to light.  It got the name “pay to play” but was just another form of bribery.  The common description of pay to play is “the practice of making campaign contributions and related payments to elected officials in order to influence the awarding of lucrative contracts for the management of public pension plan assets and similar government investment accounts.”  Yup – sounds like bribery to me.

However, for some reason, the definition of this expanded to include any campaign contributions to any state or local officials, regardless of the size.  So, if I contribute $1,000 to the campaign of the Colorado state treasurer, I violate this SEC rule and become someone who is “paying to play.” Now, as someone who gets multiple calls and emails most days to contribute to campaigns as an election approaches, I can assure you that it has never occurred to me to support the campaign for a state treasurer. However, I do know that a candidate for state treasurer has called me asking for campaign contributions. And I’ve politely declined.

After studying the implications of this ruling, I’ve decided it prohibits me and my spouse (Amy) from making any campaign contributions to state or local races anywhere in the country.  The NVCA has also studied the new SEC rule and has come to the same conclusion:

“This ruling is consistent with guidance the NVCA has been providing members.  It is now even more important to have a firm-wide policy against political contributions to these officials / candidates. This restriction does NOT include political contributions to candidates running for federal office (U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate, U.S. President) nor does it include contributions to the NVCA PAC, which only gives to federal candidates.”

We’ve instituted this rule at Foundry Group, although it’s upsetting and offensive to me because I think it fundamentally violates my First Amendment rights. To err on the side of caution, we’ve determined that spouses cannot make state or local political contributions either.  This infuriates Amy, as it should.

It’s even more upsetting when you consider that there is no cap on political contributions that corporations can make.  The Supreme Court ruled on this in January stating that the government has no business regulating political speech.  So, on one hand we have corporations who can give any amount to any candidate running for office while on the other hand my wife can’t contribute $1,000 to someone running for governor of Colorado.

Now, don’t misunderstand me – I think pay to play is grotesque.  And Amy and I are huge advocates of campaign finance reform.  However, the core problem of pay to play is bribery, not the active support of state and local candidates for office by individual citizens.  They are totally different things and should be able to be easily and cleanly differentiated, without the government regulating my political speech.

The Internet Makes DC Closer To Homer

Comments (8)

I’m far away from Washington DC today.  Actually, I’m a lot closer to Russia than I am to DC and that makes me an expert on Russia.  Wait, someone else said that (although the people next to me and Amy at dinner last night were speaking Russian.)

But my friend the Internets (actually, the Web) brought DC closer to me today.  While I’m only involved in a handful of things related to politics and DC, several of them popped up somewhere in my world in the last two days.  So, I thought I’d share them with you.

Let’s start with software patents.  I’m still seriously bummed about Bilski – not the specific ruling, but the fact that in my opinion the Supreme Court wimped out on something that is very important.  Several friends have told me that the Supreme Court did exactly what they were supposed to – they ruled on a vary narrow and specific issue that was put before them.  A few other friends of mine, including several lawyers that know a lot about the Supreme Court, said it looked like the Supreme Court came close to making a significant and profound ruling – with plenty of hints buried in the stuff Justice Stevens wrote.  I can’t interpret any of the Supreme Court inside baseball, but I do know how I feel about software patents and expressed my frustration in an article that I co-authored with Paul Kedrosky titled Software Patents Need to Be Abolished that showed up in the Huffington Post yesterday.  In case you need more evidence around the stupidity of the whole situation, take a look at the crap van Rijn is going through.  Or maybe this patent from Microsoft on “how to turn a page in an electronic book.”

DC Topic #2 is the Startup Visa.  Inc. Magazine has a great article about the issue and the Startup Visa titled The Immigrant Advantage.  My friends Kevin Mann (British) and Thanavath Jaroenvanit (French) – both of TechStars Boulder 2008 – co-founders of Graphic.ly – and one of my inspirations for the Startup Visa movement) are prominently featured.  And the Kauffman Foundation just came out with a study that concludes that Job Growth is Entirely Driven by Startups.  I’ve had a few encouraging conversations about the Startup Visa movement recently, including hearing about a new co-sponsor of the Senate Bill (“The Startup Visa Act of 2010″) as well as talking to a handful of prominent organizations that are close to signing up to get behind it.

Finally, LeBron James has apparently signed with the Miami Heat.  I have no idea what that has to do with DC, other than I’m sure the Wizards were trying to get him also.

Build something great with me