We kick off a new series of conversations with key insiders in the presidential campaigns, “The Dueling Steves,” featuring three guys who happen to be named Steve: Steve Schmidt of the McCain campaign, Steve Westly of the Obama campaign, and Steve Maviglio of the Clinton campaign. Steve Westly is national finance co-chairman and California co-chairman of the Barack Obama for President campaign. He was one of the major players in a little company called eBay. Now he is a leading “clean tech” venture capitalist in Silicon Valley, where we caught up with him at his office on the fabled Sand Hill Road, the center of America’s high tech venture capital industry.
Westly is also the former elected State Controller of California. He served four years as the chief fiscal officer of the state government –the world’s seventh largest economy– when the state was in a much smaller deficit than it is now, before running a near-miss race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2006 against a more traditional liberal Democrat who went on to be wiped out by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Westly, incidentally, has reached across the aisle to work with Schwarzenegger on budget and redistricting reforms.
Westly first met Obama in 2004, in a small dinner gathering before the Illinois senator delivered the keynote address to the Democratic National Convention which placed him on the national political map.
In 2006, while campaigning together for the Democratic ticket, Westly decided he would back Obama if he ran for president. In 2007, he came on board with an initial commitment, and has since gone on to personally raise millions of dollars for the Democratic insurgent-turned-frontrunner and to help the Obama campaign set up its unprecedented Internet fundraising machine. He is presently very involved in lobbying Democratic superdelegates.
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