Story Overstated Obama’s Role in VC Legislation

Dear Editor:

Brad Spirrison’s piece, “Real Change: New President Gets VC” in the February 2009 VCJ, has factual inaccuracies and lacks context with respect to the Illinois Technology Development Account (TDA) legislation. According to Spirrison, Obama “sponsored legislation … aimed at stimulating early stage investing in Illinois … that bill led to the TDA.”

The article doesn’t mention key roles played by state treasurer (12 years) Judy Baar Topinka, Martin Noven, General Counsel and Deputy Treasurer, State Sen. Kirk Dillard, who introduced the bill and lead the sponsorship, and then State Rep. Jeff Schoenberg.

Obama was not the sponsor, but the final co-sponsor on April 25, 2002, more than a year after the bill had been introduced on April 5, 2001 by Dillard. The bill was signed by Gov. Ryan on Aug. 26, 2002, not “in 2003” as the article states.

Topinka said: “By the time Barack got to the station, that train had already left.” She writes: “Obama had no contact with our office. … Maybe Barack Obama signed on as a co-sponsor … which is an easy way to show interest without having to do the heavy lifting. … However, in Springfield, he was a backbencher.”

Furthermore, Obama didn’t play a role in the legislation’s passage. “Not on that bill,” says Kirk Dillard. “He was a very late co-signer on the bill.”

Dillard says Obama saw the “the VCs as a source of political funding” which “may have been part of his motivation.” Dillard, a Republican who made a TV ad for Obama, said “Barack … doesn’t need to puff his resume.”

Manipulating the record for alternative agendas is a disservice to now President Obama. It’s one thing to say that Obama was interested in VC, it’s quite another to re-write history.

Ron May, Editor and Publisher, The May Report