Tech industry donors warm up to Romney

Somini Sengupta / New York Times News Service

SAN FRANCISCO — When President Barack Obama makes his latest foray into Silicon Valley today, he will face a technology industry more engaged than ever in the wheeling and dealing of Washington, and much more forthcoming with its political contributions — including, generously, to his rival, Mitt Romney.

The two candidates, and their parties, have raised more money from technology executives and investors than they did in 2008. Altogether, Obama and Romney have campaigned here numerous times in the last year. And as the stakes for the industry have grown higher in Washington, both candidates have at least acknowledged some of its policy priorities, like immigration overhaul and lowering the corporate tax rate.

But although Obama is widely seen a friend of the tech industry — and, with his party, has taken in far more contributions — the excitement associated with his 2008 campaign has diminished here, as it has elsewhere. Romney and the Republicans have made clear inroads.

By the end of August, Romney raised $2.04 million, compared with the $1.7 million that John McCain raised over his entire campaign four years ago. He has also tapped the pocketbooks of a few former Obama donors. One is Marc Andreessen, a prominent venture capitalist and Facebook investor who supported Romney’s failed primary bid in 2007, but went on to back Obama in 2008 with a $4,600 contribution. This year, he put in more than $100,000 for Romney.

Andreessen’s office declined to comment for this article, but he, like other tech industry executives, have said they find Romney’s business background appealing. Others say they are disappointed that the industry’s wish list in Washington remains unfulfilled, pointing, for example, to the unsuccessful effort to raise visa caps for immigrants with math and science degrees.

“This was a man who was elected in 2008 because he understood the power of the Internet,” said Mark Heesen, the president of the National Venture Capital Association, an industry group. “However, as much as the administration has loved the technology innovation agenda, they kind of walk away when you say you have to finance this innovation.”