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David Wilhelm (born October 2, 1956) is an American political leader and businessman. Wilhelm is best known for managing campaigns for President Bill Clinton, Senator Paul Simon, Senator Joe Biden and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley.

As a former Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Wilhelm was a 2008 superdelegate to the Democratic National Convention. He supported Barack Obama's candidacy and informally advised the Obama campaign.

A native of Appalachian Ohio (raised in Athens, Ohio), Wilhelm is a venture capitalist who focuses on spurring sustainable economic growth in areas that tend not to receive much investment.

He received his B.A. from Ohio University, as well as a Master of Public Policy from Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government. He has also received honorary doctorates from Ohio University and the University of Charleston. He is currently a Fellow at Ohio University's Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs and has previously been a Fellow at Harvard University's Institute of Politics.



Wilhelm gained national prominence as the campaign manager for Bill Clinton's presidential run in 1992. Wilhelm ran the day-to-day operations of the campaign, overseeing political outreach, state outreach, and all staff. He was the campaign's authority on electoral college strategy and spearheaded the bus tour through the heartland that followed the Democratic National Convention.

Wilhelm's role was complemented by strategists such as James Carville and George Stephanopoulos, who were in charge of communications ([3]) Eli Segal and Mickey Kantor also played leading roles.

After the election, President-elect Clinton named Wilhelm to serve as chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), making Wilhelm the youngest person to head a national party in American history. Wilhelm's priority at the DNC was to strengthen the party's grassroots by promoting White House initiatives at the state and local level.

Throughout his career, Wilhelm has advised some of America's leading political figures. He managed the campaigns of President Bill Clinton, Senator Paul Simon, Senator Joe Biden, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, was a senior advisor to the 2002 campaign of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and has advised Ohio Governor Ted Strickland. Wilhelm also served as chair of the Illinois presidential campaign of John Kerry and John Edwards in 2004. Early in the 2008 presidential election, he served as a senior advisor to his longtime friend Joe Biden's presidential campaign. On February 13, 2008, he endorsed Senator Obama's bid for the Democratic nomination, citing his ability to unite Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. During the hard fought primary campaign, Wilhelm emerged as a powerful voice in support of Senator Obama's candidacy on national media.

Earlier in his career, Wilhelm served as Executive Director of Citizens for Tax Justice, a public interest group that advocates for middle- and lower-income families.


Wilhelm is the founder and president of Woodland Venture Management, which launches venture capital funds in underserved regions of the United States. Woodland's premise is that business opportunities exist in geographic areas that East and West Coast-based investors view as "flyover country," and regularly ignore.

Woodland's first fund,Adena Ventures, focuses on businesses in central Appalachia, one of the poorest regions in the United States. The Small Business Administration designated Adena the nation's first company to receive funding under the New Markets Venture Capital Program, which gave incentives to firms investing in poor communities.[1]

Hopewell Ventures is Woodland's second fund targeting the Midwest, from Pittsburgh on the east to Omaha on the west. A study by PricewaterhouseCoopers suggested that the Midwest receives less venture capital financing than the city of San Diego alone.[2]


  • Wilhelm met his wife, Degee, on Joe Biden's presidential campaign in 1987. Degee is from Iowa and her father was a lay Baptist minister. She is an attorney currently serving in the Obama campaign as surrogate scheduler for Ohio.
  • Adena Ventures, Wilhelm's first venture capital fund, is named for a Native American tribe that established a vast trade network throughout what is now Appalachia. Hopewell Ventures, Wilhelm's second fund, is named for the tribe that succeeded the Adena Indians.
  • Wilhelm's father came to the United States as a refugee from Germany after World War II. He was brought to the country by the Brethren Church.
  • Wilhelm is a Methodist and in 2006 co-founded
  • As DNC chair in 1993, Wilhelm gave a (speech) to the Christian Coalition and was greeted with jeers for arguing that good Christians can belong to any political party.


  • "If you want to win, always be the aggressor. Always. Get on offense and stay there. That's it, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you and good night." - 8/13/02, speech at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland
  • "The flip-side of a capital gap is a market opportunity." - 3/5/05, speech at the gala.
  • "I am a Christian and I am a Democrat. However inconvenient it might be, God is an Independent." - 9/10/93, speech to Christian Coalition.
  • "When I was younger, the Don Quixote types easily impressed me. But effectiveness comes with the realization that there is no moral superiority in constantly losing." - 5/1/05, commencement address at the University of Charleston
  • "Little is more tragic than a 21 year-old cynic, except perhaps for a 50 year-old cynic who once dreamed big dreams. The moment you lose your big idea is the moment that your day turns to twilight." - 5/1/05, commencement address at the University of Charleston.
  • "Winning is not the end game in life; winning for a reason is." - 1/23/05, Speech accepting the Bow Tie Award from Democratic Leadership for the 21st Century.
  • "If you are a true believer, if the rationale for your political participation lies beyond mere self-aggrandizement, you know that there are no such things as lost causes, just battles not yet won." -8/13/02, speech at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ [2])
Party political offices
Preceded by
Ron Brown
Democratic National Committee Chairman
Succeeded by
Debra DeLee


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