Coloradan gave $28,500 to victory fund because president is ‘driven’ by reality

RODEL INC., a company founded by Bill Budinger of Aspen, works on surface technologies used in the manufacture of semiconductors. “I believe the country has been headed in the wrong direction,” he says. It’s his hope that science will be restored to policymaking.

Inventor Bill Budinger built a career and a fortune out of a fact-driven world.

Working in the realm of science, he helped develop technology used to manufacture the semiconductors that are common in electronics and make our lives so much more convenient today.

So, when the Aspen resident came across a presidential candidate who appeared intent on letting facts rather than ideology guide his views on public policy, Budinger got behind him, in a big way.

Budinger was one of the top individual donors to Barack Obama in Colorado, with contributions including $28,500 to the Obama Victory Fund political action committee.

“I believe the country has been headed in the wrong direction,” Budinger said in explaining his decision to put his money behind the man who ended up becoming president. “We’ve been on the wrong track for many years. Barack Obama was the candidate most likely to change that.”

Budinger, a board member for the Aspen Institute, met Obama about a year and a half ago at a lunch arranged by the institute and attended by about a dozen people.

Hearing Obama’s views at the lunch played a significant role in leading Budinger to get behind him.

“He was very much driven by the realities of a situation rather than an ideological wish,” Budinger said. “That is, of course, the fundamental tenet of science, that it is fact-driven, and the Bush administration got away from that and became ideology-driven.”

Budinger thinks that created problems for foreign policy, the economy, the environment and on other fronts. He takes hope in Obama’s inaugural address pledge to restore science to its proper place in policymaking. He said he’s also impressed by the new president’s intellect and willingness to think through problems and the long-term effects of decisions.

“One of the neat things about Obama is he listens to these multiple points of view. He doesn’t hear only what he wants to hear,” Budinger said.

Budinger said some of the nation’s problems, in areas such as public education and the economy, date back further than the Bush administration.

“I think the nation itself, we as a people, in the last several decades have become more and more focused on money and less and less on performance,” he said.

Companies such as the one Budinger once ran concentrated on producing great products, but the recent emphasis on quarterly earnings sometimes has decreased product quality, he said. It also pushed banks to take risks that helped lead to today’s financial crisis, he believes.

Budinger created a company, Rodel Inc., focused on chemicals and specialty materials involved in preparing silicone crystals on which to build semiconductors.

A key project involved working with IBM to develop a manufacturing process to create what essentially is a three-dimensional microchip. Previously, Budinger said, circuit development was constrained by working in two dimensions, in which circuits couldn’t cross. Adding a third dimension opened new circuit pathways.

Budinger and his company were involved in treating chips so they could be built in what in effect were multiple stories, without each story affecting the underlying electronics.

Some of Budinger’s work has been applied in an underwater dimension as well. He said most of the scuba diving computers used today incorporate his patents. The computers are used in helping divers avoid “the bends,” a dangerous condition that can result from decompression upon surfacing.

Budinger’s technological accomplishments may sound impressive. But Budinger believes Obama faces some daunting tasks of his own.

“I think he’s going to be challenged as much as or more than any president of the United States has been challenged,” Budinger said.

One of those challenges involves helping revive an economy that Budinger thinks will get even worse before it gets better. He hopes the public will be patient with the new president and not blame him if the downturn continues for a time.

“Basically he’s trying to catch a falling safe,” Budinger said.

Obama has been criticized for lacking experience, but Budinger noted some of the greatest presidents, including Lincoln and Washington, had no experience running a country.

“It’s not experience so much as capability, and ability to learn,” he said.

Inventor Bill Budinger started Rodel Inc. in his garage and built it into a manufacturing company for the electronics industry with plants in several countries. Rodel works on surface technologies used in the manufacture of semiconductors.

Budinger holds more than three dozen patents. He sold Rodel and used proceeds to create the Rodel Foundations, which work on reform of K-12 education in America.

Budinger has testified before congressional committees and drafted much of the 1998 patent-reform law.

He retired in Aspen, where he enjoys skiing and the outdoors. Budinger serves on several boards, including ones for the Aspen Institute, Grand Canyon Trust and Democratic Leadership Council.


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