Donor Spotlight: A Conversation with Alex Renard & Kevin Dutt
Keep the Promise Campaign Chair Kevin Dutt (right) has built socially and environmentally responsible companies for the past twenty years, managed an impact investment fund, and worked for major companies in the areas of product commercialization, operations management, and strategy. He recently sat down with Keep the Promise Campaign Committee member, Alex Renard (left). Alex currently serves as the Founder and Managing Director of Renard Ventures. Previously, he ran for the Wisconsin State Senate and served as the Vice President of Renco Machine Company, Inc.
What is your occupation?
Founder and Managing Director of Renard Ventures.
I would say any time I get to spend with my little one – we have an almost nine-month-old, James – and my wife Megan, and any time I get to be in the woods either hunting or fishing.
What is your current state of mind?
I have more hope now. I didn’t have much hope before I met the American Promise crew. I had gotten to a place where I was very disillusioned with some of the individuals who are are supposed to be our elected officials and with how our political system works. I really felt that we, the citizens, the electorate, have lost our voice in favor of outside interests that never show their faces. Big money corrupts our entire political system. It encourages individuals to answer to corporations and to other interests rather than listening to the constituents. But things are looking up and I am a lot more optimistic about the future of our political system after meeting American Promise.
Has that state of mind been shaped somewhat by the business you are in?
Politics is very personal to me. I have always been politically active. I have always been a history buff. I have always been enamored with the American experiment of self-government. What we have is something like no nation has ever tried and succeeded [in creating]. I remember being a kid and [knocking] doors and getting on the phone and cold calling people before I could even vote.
Over the years, though, I’ve seen the system work more and more against us – the people. I was a candidate for a state senate district here in the state of Wisconsin in 2018. For the first time, I saw behind the curtain of how our government works, how big money and special interest groups work, and how incredibly wealthy donors can pull interest as well. I say this also fully willing to admit that I, myself, am 100% a capitalist; I have nothing against wealth, or very wealthy people, but when [people] use that wealth to influence us as voters it’s incredibly disheartening.
Would you run for office again? What would need to change to do it again if you wouldn’t?
It’s not on the horizon right now; I haven’t thought about it recently. The whole reason I ran is because I thought I was the best candidate that was put forth on either side of the aisle to represent the 1st District. It’s the district that I grew up in, [where] I learned to hunt and fish, where I spent time in the waters and in the woods, and I thought that experience combined with my business experience meant that I would be a good legislator.
In general, though, I’m not dissuaded. However, the whole reason I ran is because I thought I was the best candidate and could bring value to the state and the district, and I have since found ways, like working with yourselves, that I can still be helpful, and useful to my generation and to preserv[ing] democracy.
What are you reading/watching now?
I am a huge Steinbeck fan, and my wife just got me a biography on him called Mad at the World. I also just dug into Paris 1818.
Which living person do you most admire?
Locally here, and in Green Bay, we are very blessed and lucky. We’re known for the Packers, and a little bit for the fishing and hunting obviously, and we are the paper capital of the world, but I would have to say business leaders. I have been blessed and lucky enough to grow up with many, many strong – both men and women – business figures who have done well and succeeded in life in a business, and they’ve turned around and found causes that they believe are worthwhile, and they give not only time and effort and money, but also bits of themselves to the projects. We have some wonderful families here in Green Bay, and individuals that are just selfless enough to stand up and try to make change. [So] I would have to say the business leaders of our community here in northeastern Wisconsin.
Which historical figure(s) do you most identify with?
Teddy Roosevelt. You look at someone – and you look back at the year in which he ran, when individuals of wealth didn’t play in politics, it was a dirty game – and [he said] voters need to know who is paying [for] and influencing elections.
What drew you to American Promise?
People up here were saying hey, we want to introduce you to this group, listen to their story, listen to their message, and everyone, yourselves included, that I have had the opportunity to interact with in your organization, has had [this] wonderful zeal and passion. You all have this incredible fire in your belly. It’s selflessness. Everyone I meet goes above and beyond with this mission to truly try to preserve democracy.
What’s fun about everybody we connect with is that everyone has different things that maybe drive them crazy about government, whether it’s state, or local, or federal, but so much of it is everyone realizing that it all goes back to the money that’s in politics causing all this dysfunction.
I do believe our form of government, and a system that has worked so well for us, is under siege by dark money. That’s not at all what the founding fathers intended when they broke off from overregulation and over governance. They did it to put the power in the hands of the people. Now, to look back and see all that has been created because of their ideals, to where we are now, I really bet they are rolling over in their graves, because while it may not be another government or outside groups or forces, it is forces from within that are corrupting our entire democracy.