Creator of First Popular Web Browser Netscape Switches from Democrat to Republican

Matthew Sheffield
By Matthew Sheffield | March 3, 2012 | 5:13 PM EST

Marc Andreessen, the founder of Netscape who now runs the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen-Horowitz, has come out of the political closet and announced he's backing Mitt Romney, which puts him at odds with the generally liberal leaning of Silicon Valley.

Andreessen – who sits on the boards of Facebook, eBay and HP - has donated $100,000 to the Romney SuperPAC. The tech biz whiz, who was a backer of Clinton and Gore in the 1990s, spoke highly of Romney during a lengthy interview on CNBC:

Q: As a Romney backer do you think he has a better vision for the regulatory environment that would be better for Silicon Valley?

Andreessen: "Yeah. At least so far I'm a Romney supporter in the primaries. He's a guy that is a dyed-in-the-wool-businessman. He's formed a large number of companies. He understands what it's like to be in business. Makes him attractive to people like me. I think he's got a great view on regulation.”

But, Andreessen said, he doesn't like Romney's views on China: “He's essentially calling for a trade war. I think that's a terrible idea. I hope he stops doing that,” Andreessen told CNBC, before switching back to praising Romney's stance on regulation, calling himself “a big supporter.”

During the interview on CNBC's SquawkBox, Andreessen said the Sarbanes-Oxley law is “effectively killing tech IPOs” because it imposes inordinate liabilities and resource allocation on public companies – motivating promising Silicon Valley companies to remain private as long as they can in order to focus their capital on other areas core to their growth.

The CNBC host jokingly asked Andreessen if he “travels incognito” when out on the West Coast, and “is it okay or do you get a lot of flap” for supporting a Republican?

Andreessen notes that he “was a big Clinton-Gore supporter in the '90s,” then references the old quote, sometimes (probably erroneously) attributed to Winston Churchill, “If you're not a liberal at twenty you have no heart, if you're not a conservative at forty you have no brain.”

Said Andreessen: “I turned 40 last year so I figured it was time to make the switch.”

Laughs aside, though, while many execs in Silicon Valley support liberal candidates, Andreessen is not at all the only high-profile tech leader to have rejected the Left – although, in many cases, those who have tend to lean libertarian more so than mainstream Republican.

As Business Insider puts it, “The truth is that there is also a very strong libertarian strain in the Valley. Sometimes libertarian-leaning Silicon Valley titans even almost allow themselves to be called Republicans."

One example: PayPal co-founder and high-profile venture capitalist Peter Thiel – who self-identifies as a libertarian - has given generously to support Ron Paul in the presidential race.

Thiel recently analyzed the politics of Silicon Valley and said it's split between Democrats and libertarians.

“I think a lot of the engineers tend to be pretty libertarian in Silicon Valley,” Thiel said. “A lot of the non-engineering people tend to be more Democratic, if I had to give the cultural split.”

The non-engineering group “includes company executives, it includes people who are lawyers, it includes people who work in other capacities, for all sorts of complicated reasons,” Thiel said. “The actual Silicon Valley demographic, the engineering part of it, is actually quite libertarian.”

As the entrepreneurs behind the internet explosion in the 1990s are starting to get up there in years, hopefully more than just Andreesen will come to realize how destructive liberalism is to economic growth and startup companies that aren't funded by crony capitalism.

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