Obama Co-Chair Supports Obama-Critic Ryan — `I’m an American’

Photograph by Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg

Marc Benioff, chief executive officer of Salesforce.com Inc.

One of President Barack Obama’s campaign co-chairmen also is a political donor to Representative Paul Ryan, one of Obama’s most prominent critics and a top surrogate for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Marc Benioff, chief executive officer of Salesforce.com, the largest maker of online customer-management software, has raised more than $500,000 for the president’s campaign and hosted a fundraiser for him in April 2011. Yet Benioff, who became an Obama campaign co-chairman in February, donated $10,000 last month to a political committee aiding Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican who may merit consideration by Romney as a vice-presidential running mate.

Ryan,  chairman of the Budget Committee and a member of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, has clashed with Obama over fiscal policy and has promoted a budget plan to cut government spending and taxes.

Benioff’s June 13 donation went to Prosperity Action Committee, a joint fundraising operation that shares its proceeds with Ryan’s campaign committee and his leadership political action committee, Prosperity PAC, which makes campaign contributions to Republican incumbents and candidates who oppose Obama.

The day after he donated to Ryan, Benioff was among the business leaders who praised an economic speech Obama delivered in Cleveland, Ohio. “American CEOs need confidence to invest in the future, and the president’s plan is the next step forward in regaining that confidence,” Benioff said in a statement that Obama’s campaign distributed.

Jane Hynes, a spokeswoman for Salesforce, declined to comment on Benioff’s personal political donations.

Benioff’s donations lean Democratic, though he has donated to politicians in both parties — sometimes to dueling candidates, Federal Election Commission records show. Benioff donated to Romney’s unsuccessful 2008 presidential campaign in February 2007, then gave money to Obama the next month. Benioff donated to George W. Bush and Al Gore in 1999, a year before they ran against one another. In 2003, Benioff donated to Bush’s re-election effort and to Democratic challenger John Kerry, who lost to Bush the following year.

A few months before he became an Obama campaign co-chairman, Benioff told television interviewer Charlie Rose that he was “not sure yet” who he wanted to see as the next president.

“I have supported Barack Obama in the past. I have vacillated between being a Republican and being a Democrat,” Benioff told Rose in November 2011. “I’m now neither one. I’m not a Republican or a Democrat — I’m an American.”


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