Sunday, June 18, 2006

Gabrieli's Loose Lips

Are Chris Gabrieli's accomplishments reflected glory or creeping mold?

Many of his supporters happily buy his assertions that he created over 100,000 in his career as venture capitalist. Today's Globe as a lengthy piece detailing a more critical examination of these claims.

This is not so much the-man-behind-the-curtain exposé as whether he has an honest résumé in his claims. The short answer is that he has a typical politician (and VC) ego. Everything positive he can associate himself with, he says was all him. It's not as bad as a kid skipping stones at the beach and taking credit for the tide, but does require consideration.

Like the rest of his life, his political claims are as much hype as fact. That is not necessarily bad, either. He is after all selling himself first to us voters and then to the legislature and businesses. If 1) most of us buy into his program and 2) he is right that a couple of VC-style fixes can turn our economy around, all is swell. Otherwise, everything goes to hell.

Whether it's Patrick, Reilly or anyone else running, sales is a huge part of the game. Except for the Greens' Grace Ross, all the other performers in this candidate circus are selling all the time. They can learn from Gabrieli, who made a fortune buying into companies at bargain rates and then selling their potential to others much inflated. That has been his business and he apparently has been very good at it.

The article deals with the three main claims that Garbrieli implies will carry over to fixing the commonwealth.

Job creation

Gabby says in the 15-years he was at Bessemer Venture Partners, the firm put $1 billion plus into the economy, with over 100,000 jobs out the other end. Unfortunately, this one is pretty iffy. It seems in the big winners, like Staples, Gabby "to my best memory, was never involved," according to Staples founder Thomas Stemberg. A Bessemer partner mitigates this a bit with a claim that Gabby had some input by phone.

The Globe concludes, "But even if Gabrieli were involved in all the deals he cites, whether he or Bessemer could take credit for their later success is debatable, according to entrepreneurs and specialists."

Pension Funds

A bit of hyperbole seemed to have come here, as one is wont to do on the stump. He used to say that he convinced the treasurer and the commonwealth's pension fund to invest "up to 2%" of its moneys on Massachusetts -- jobs and housing. Somehow in the campaign, in speeches and on his Website, that became an unqualified 2% or $600 million.

Treasurer Tim Cahill talks like the fiscal conservative he's supposed to be. "I don't know what he's referring to. There is no dollar figure attached. The $600 million is obviously more than we're doing and will probably ever be comfortable doing." He noted that he, not Gabrieli, proposed this first, in Cahill's 2002 campaign. Gabby did help by getting consultants McKinsey & Co. to study this at no cost to the commonwealth.

Gabby's spin in an interview when the many differences in what happened appeared was a very positive, "I was involved throughout the process from start to finish, but it was a team effort. I'm incredibly proud of the huge new investment by our pension fund to grow our economy."

Stem-Cell Research

For a long time, the only substance in his campaign was a promise of $1 billion investment to jumpstart stem-cell research here. The idea was that it would do for the economy what mini-computers used to. Newton knows, we have medical pros and research facilities here.

Here, Gabby was directly involved, but to an unknown effect. He spoke with legislators when Gov. Romney threatened to veto portions of the supporting bill to legalize such research (we're not to the funding yet, just enabling the process).

He kicked in $90,000, raised another $96,000, and spent $130,000 of it on media buys. When the bill passed by a veto-proof margin, he declared victory. Legislators don't recall his influence, but they tend to have strong egos as well.

As Senate President Don't-Call-Me-Bobby Travaglini put it, "I wouldn't put him in the critical category, but he was helpful. I never viewed the bill as being in jeopardy, but it was in need of a process of education and familiarization."

Believe It Or Else!

From here, it looks like our VC demigod is pushing it but not faking it entirely. Like any politician or salesman, he is pulled toward exaggeration.

Do you think his shining presence can transform the commonwealth? Do you care that his claims look more like team plays in the light of day?

To the latter, any governor will need to be a team player as well as captain. There are a lot of big, swinging egos involved here. Everyone wants to claim credit for successes and avoid blame for failures. Maybe Gabby can also share honors, although his campaigning so far does not indicate that.

His supporters seem as much true believers as Patrick's. They are likely to riled by the Globe analysis but not dissuaded. Otherwise, Gabby should be glad so few of us read newspapers.

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Anonymous said...

Wow - the shallow attacks on Gabrieli by Deval supporters are getting thinner and thinner.

Do you think Deval would condone your politics of cynicism?

(And for people that decried anybody making hay out of the fact that Ameriquest paid Deval $300,000 a year coincidentally after he worked out a sweetheart settlement for them, you Deval supporters sure are trying to twist the truth and make some specious conclusions about Gabrieli's history.)

massmarrier said...

Amusing response and quick, Anon.

I don't twist 'em, just post 'em, in this case at least. However, thanks for proving the point that Gabrieli supporters won't be swayed by the Globe analysis. Read the whole newspaper article.

Your guy is the one who has said check-it-out with his "results count" mantra. Well, the major local daily checked it out.

That Patrick chant is pretty weak though. Considering how in previous elections Gabrieli defended himself against what appeared to be very clear conflicts of interest and refusal to reveal financial info, his campaign's attacks in these very areas now are damned hypocritical.

There is a very embarrassing trail of such stories in the paper archives of his previous statewide campaigns. If I wanted to dump on Gabby, I'd wave those around.

Also, don't confuse me with Deval Patrick. I am cynical and admit it. He's the goody guy, not I.

Anonymous said...

Oy gevalt. There are some Patrick who suporters freak out if you mention that the corporations he served aren't exactly the nicest, and now we see that htere are some Gabrieli supporters who freak out if you question any of his claims. Could both campaigns kindly remember that these are political candidates, and that even if you've decided that one is "your guy," he's not beyond criticism?? I'm already finding myself less inclined to read political blogs because I know that this kind of defensive crap is going to be all over them.

Thanks for posting the article. I think that you assessed it well, partricularly in your comment that "Except for the Greens' Grace Ross, all the other performers in this candidate circus are selling all the time."