Ron Conway has gotten plenty of attention in recent months for his political activism on the local scene, particularly in San Francisco where he has emerged as big supporter of Mayor Ed Lee. In addition to campaign contributions and organizing, Conway has also been instrumental in the founding of sf.citi, a group designed to both advocate for the city’s booming tech sector but to also find constructive ways for those members to help solve some of San Francisco’s biggest social challenges.
But what’s less well known is that Conway has gotten increasingly active in national politics over the past two years. While Conway has always donated to national candidates, his giving has increased dramatically during this current campaign cycle.
According to data from Opensecrets.org, Conway has donated $131,081 in the 2011-2012 campaign cycle so far. That compares to $29,800 in 2009-10; $9,200 in the 2007-8 cycle; and a total of $89,800 between 1999 and 2006. Conway has steered the majority of that money to the Democratic party and candidates, but has also sent smaller donations to the Republican Party and candidates, as well as conservative Political Action Committees.
“I support local and national candidates who support tech, regardless of party,” Conway wrote to me in an email. “There is nothing more important than creating jobs and keeping San Francisco the greatest place in the world to innovate and grow a business.”
Conway’s two largest contributions were in the amount of $30,800 each and went to the Democratic National Committee, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. He’s chipped in $5,000 to Barack Obama’s campaign, and none to Mitt Romney.
On the other side of the aisle, Conway sent $7,500 to the National Republican Senate Committee and $5,000 to Rep. Darrell Issa’s (R-CA) PAC called Invest in a Strong & Secure America. His largest contribution to an individual was $7,500 and went to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) back in 2011.
Conway’s increased activity is not just about money. As was noted earlier this year, Conway became a leader in the fight against SOPA and PIPA, two bills detested by Silicon Valley but embraced by Hollywood. Rey Ramsey, president and CEO of TechNet, said Conway played a critical role in that fight, marshaling his extensive list of tech contacts to help create a grassroots outpouring of outrage.
And while TechNet primarily exists to represent the agenda of its members who are tech companies, Conway has become one of the few (perhaps the only?) individuals to join.
That increased political activity reflects, in part, Conway’s growing reputation and influence, particularly among young entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley who revere his advice and connections. But it also is likely due to his success as an investor in start-ups Following the dot-com bust, it seemed like Conway was going to be devastated. But two small investments he made turned everything around: Google and PayPal.
He used those successes to mount a major comeback over the past decade, to become one of Silicon Valley’s most influential start-up investors, via his SV Angel fund.
That prosperity has allowed him to become more active financially in national politics. Having a louder voice advocating for Silicon Valley, a region that has at times struggled to make its case in Washington, is a welcome development.
“He has become a vital individual in TechNet’s national program as he creates a bridge between Washington DC and a growing number of politically interested and active investors, start ups and activists,” TechNet president and CEO Rey Ramsey wrote to me in an email. “We coordinated day-to-day with Ron when the SOPA battles heated up. I really look forward to where this partnership will grow and for what it means for both TechNet and for policy matters nationally.”