When I covered WordPerfect back in the day, the go-to guy for the press was a fellow named Pete Petersen. He was the one who would return your phone calls and answer questions about the company and its products. But Petersen owned only 1 percent of WordPerfect. The two majority shareholders were its co-founders, Bruce Bastian and Alan Ashton.
From time to time, you could corral Ashton for a quote, but that was the exception to the rule as he much preferred to stay out of the limelight. So it was with more than passing interest that I came across news of Ashton's decision to help bankroll proponents of a ban on gay marriage in California:
The campaign issued an urgent appeal, and in a matter of days, it raised more than $5 million, including a $1 million donation from Alan C. Ashton, the grandson of a former president of the Mormon Church. The money allowed the drive to intensify a sharp-elbowed advertising campaign, and support for the measure was catapulted ahead; it ultimately won with 52 percent of the vote.
I haven't seen breakouts of how people working in California's technology business voted on the question of banning gay marriage. Still, I'd be flabbergasted if it paralleled opinion in the rest of the state--let alone Utah. Silicon Valley isn't Orem.
But while one man, one vote sounds fair on paper, it counts a lot more when you're voting as a member of the super-rich. So it is that Ashton, who hasn't been active in a significant way in California's technology industry for years, may now wind up having more impact here than for anything he did in his previous career as an entrepreneur.
UpdateAs many have pointed out to me, WordPerfect's other co-founder, Bruce Bastian, also got involved in the Prop 8 issue and contributed $1 million to the other side.