CIOs and Campaign Contributions

Incoming Federal Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel, who started work Friday, doled out $50,000 to fund President Obama's inauguration celebration and has contributed more than $10,000 more to Obama and the Democratic party since 2008.

That inaugural contribution puts VanRoekel head and tails above any other inside candidate for the government's top technology post. Unlike campaign contributions, there is no legal cap on contributions to the inaugural celebration except for a cap imposed by the president elect himself -- in this case $50,000.

More vanilla campaign contributions are nothing new to the two-year-old CIO's office, though. Outgoing CIO Vivek Kundra donated $3,300 to Obama during 2008 when Kundra was chief technology officer for the District of Columbia, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Veterans Affairs CIO Roger Baker, considered a top candidate to replace Kundra, appears to have donated $3,050 to Obama during the same year, according to CRP data. (The entries for the Roger Baker who made the Obama contributions don't include the VA CIO's middle initial or his then-current job but are from a Roger Baker living in the same zip code in suburban Virginia.)

Campaign contributions for federal candidates are capped at $2,500 per race, but primary and general elections are considered separate races, so it would have been possible to donate a total of $5,000 to Obama during 2008.

Lest one conclude the government's technology shop is all about patronage rather than performance, it's important to note that several top agency CIOs -- including Defense Department CIO Teri Takai and Homeland Security CIO Richard Spires -- appear to never have donated to the Obama campaign or to any other political candidates.

Federal Chief Performance Officer Jeffrey Zients, who oversees the CIO's office, not only never donated to the Obama campaign, but dropped $2,300 on the president's main rival for the Democratic nomination, then-Senator Hillary Clinton.