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Published on April 20th, 2017 | by Steve Hanley


Venture Capitalist Sends Message To Elon Musk: Dump Trump

April 20th, 2017 by  

Doug Derwin is a lawyer turned venture capitalist who says the rise in the stock market since the election has made him a lot of money. He is bitterly disappointed that Elon Musk — the most visible advocate for climate change action in the world — has allowed himself to be linked to Donald Trump — the most egregious climate change denier in the world. So Derwin decided to do something about it.

Doug Derwin heads Dump Trump campaign

In a classic example of putting your money where your mouth is, Derwin has spent $750,000 on an ad campaign designed to get Elon Musk’s attention and convince him to Dump Trump. The campaign began by hiring mobile billboard trucks to drive past SpaceX and Tesla headquarters. He also is agitating for those who have reserved a Tesla automobile to cancel their orders. Derwin himself has cancelled his order and donated the $150,000 price of the car he was going to buy to the ACLU.

On Monday, Derwin launched the website ElonDumpTrump.com, which lays out the reasons Derwin feels Musk’s role in the administration is inconsistent with his role as a leader on climate action. Derwin thinks that the Trump presidency is “a travesty” on multiple levels, but he is particularly outraged by Trump’s rollback of climate change regulations. The fact that Musk has posed for photo-ops with Trump is particularly galling, Derwin says, because Musk is “recognized as being a leader on climate change. I want Musk to speak up against Donald Trump’s climate change policies. His failure to do so sends the message that it’s not really a big deal and not worth his time.”

Derwin has taken out full page ads in the Sunday editions of the New York Times, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, and San Jose Mercury News. Television ads are scheduled to begin soon on Morning Joe, Meet the Press, and Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. “Donald Trump’s election has made me a lot of money,” he said. “I consider that blood money. I’ll use it to oppose Trump.”

How is his one-man campaign going? Musk, who often replies to people on Twitter, doesn’t have time for Derwin, but the companies Musk leads are clearly paying attention. Sam Teller, director of the office of the CEO at SpaceX and Tesla, contacted Derwin by phone after his billboards started popping up.

Dump Trump campaign

→ Related: Elon Musk & Donald Trump — What’s The Deal?

Teller told Derwin that Musk’s “sincerity shouldn’t be questioned” on climate change, and that speaking out against him was the wrong thing to do, according to Derwin. Last week, Derwin was invited to a meeting at Tesla’s factory in Fremont, where he sat down with Teller, Tesla general counsel Todd Maron, and Tesla’s vice president of business development, the often combative Diarmuid O’Connell.

Derwin agreed to keep the contents of the meeting confidential but he says, “it didn’t accomplish anything.” As for the presence of Maron, Derwin said, “I was a lawyer and still am. … When you take a lawyer to a meeting like that, it’s intended to send a signal.”

Tesla has not responded to repeated inquiries about its dealings with Derwin. On Wednesday, a Tesla spokesman provided the following statement to the press: “It’s quite ironic that the reason being given for attacking Elon is to help the environment. Tesla’s entire reason for existing is to accelerate the advent of sustainable energy. If someone wants to spend money to promote a pro-environment objective, we can think of better ways to do that than attacking the people who are most committed to that very purpose. Mr Derwin believes those who want a more sustainable future should not have a seat at the table. We obviously disagree.”

Tesla’s argument makes some sense, but so does Derwin’s claim that Musk’s embrace of Trump adds power to the putative president’s absurd climate policies. And so far, Musk’s presence on any of Trump’s committees seems to have had no discernible effect on Trump. What should be especially troubling to Musk is Trump’s recent executive order cracking down on the issuance of H1-B visas to foreign tech workers — an action that will impact Tesla and other tech companies directly and not in a good way.

In America today, thanks to Citizens United, the person with the biggest megaphone wins. Derwin may be a lightweight compared to Musk’s financial muscle, but he has a right to spend his money any way he sees fit. More power to him.

Source: The Guardian | Photo credits: Doug Derwin


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About the Author

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Rhode Island and anywhere else the Singularity may lead him. His motto is, "Life is not measured by how many breaths we take but by the number of moments that take our breath away!" You can follow him on Google + and on Twitter.

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