Republicans Hold Open Season on California Job Creators

Mitt Romney and his party are pitching themselves as defenders of capitalism and capitalists. Which is why it doesn't make much sense to be attacking capitalists in California.

But that's precisely what new Republican ads are doing. The target is Steve Westly, a former state controller who is now a Silicon Valley venture capitalist.

Westly is a target in part because he's a major bundler for the Obama campaign.

That means he not only gives money but he gathers up donations from many people and bundles it. But he also seems to be a target because Republicans don't seem to like start-up companies in California.

The line of attack against Westly links his fundraising for Obama to his firm's investments in the electric car company Tesla Motors, based right here in California. Tesla received a $465 million federal loan last year, money it's paying off. 

The Republican ire at California capitalists doesn't stop here. Some reports suggest the venerable capitalist John Doerr may also come in for some Republican heat.

In a normal world, Doerr and Westly are the kind of folks Romney would be courting.

Westly was always considered too moderate and business-friendly by Democrats -- making him precisely the kind of moderate Democrat that Mitt Romney should be courting.

And it's downright jarring to see Republicans claim that President Obama and the Democrats are creating a hostile environment for capitalists in one breath -- and then attacking capitalists in the next.

But alas, it appears that the Republican support for capitalism is limited by partisanship.

Indeed, there's a hint of the civil war between capitalists in this presidential: the self-styled turnaround artists of East Coast private equity, who are lining up behind private equity all-star Romney, versus the West Coast venture capitalists of Silicon Valley, many of whom seem to be for Obama.

Lead Prop Zero blogger Joe Mathews is California editor at Zocalo Public Square, a fellow at Arizona State University’s Center for Social Cohesion, and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (University of California, 2010).

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