One of the great things about being on the board of the National Venture Capital Association is when we have board meetings in Washington DC; it is similar to how I feel about jury duty – everyone should do it just to see how the whole thing works.
Recently I had breakfast with Representative Richard Neal (Democrat) from Springfield, MA. Rep Neal sits on the powerful Ways and Means Committee and has a great deal of influence over issues VC’s find important – taxation for one. With some current polls suggesting the public’s approval rating for Congress hovering just below 20% I expected a more defensive, combative posture; instead he was incredibly gracious, open-minded and engaging. Rep Neal was very practical and appeared to be very aligned with me on the agenda of the VC community which is around successful company formation and greater access to capital.
There were a number of other nuggets from breakfast…
- “Class warfare is real…”
- DC is paralyzed over the Scott Brown election (another Massachusetts “miracle”). Rep Neal cited the recently passed jobs bill in the Senate which just squeaked by but really should have had 90+ votes.
- “Republicans will take the Senate in 2012”
- Increasingly there is an expectation that the Administration will govern through the administrative agencies given the deadlocked nature of the House and Senate. This has a reasonably profound impact on many venture-backed companies. Specifically healthcare policies will play out more opaquely at the FDA and CMS versus the legislative framework. Clean-tech companies will need to work more with DOE and not the Congress.
- Financial reform will be driven to a greater extent by the SEC even though it is an “independent agency.” Notably the SEC commissioners are all hand-picked by the administration.
Having served on a jury, the last thing I would want to do is commit a crime and be caught up in the system. Having met a number of our elected officials, I am glad they are doing all that hard work rather than me.