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One of the tech industry’s loudest watchdogs is getting a boost from Hillary Clinton

Her new political nonprofit, Onward Together, gave a crucial shout-out to Color of Change.

Ms. Foundation For Women 2017 Gloria Awards Gala & After Party Monica Schipper/Getty Images for The Foundation for Women

One of the most aggressive, vocal antagonists to Silicon Valley’s tech giants has received a big boost from a rather unexpected source: Former Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton.

On Monday, Clinton revealed her plans for Onward Together, a new nonprofit that seeks to provide more financial ammunition to Democratic candidates and causes. Among the first organizations she plans to back is Color of Change, a liberal-leaning civil rights outfit that has consistently challenged the likes of Google, Microsoft and Uber on everything from their hiring practices to their work with President Donald Trump.

In a tweet Monday, Clinton said her efforts through Onward Together are meant to “encourage people to get involved” out of a belief that “citizen engagement is vital to our democracy.” She praised Color of Change in particular because of its track record in “organizing for criminal justice reform, voter freedom, fairness and accuracy in media, and other racial justice issues.”

But Color of Change has done much more than that: Last summer, for example, it launched a national campaign against Microsoft, Google and others, hoping to force them to abandon the Republican convention that officially nominated Trump as the party’s presidential candidate. More recently, it has targeted Eventbrite for allowing so-called alt-right leaders, like Richard Spencer, to sell “tickets to events hosted by hate groups.”

Going forward, the group’s leader, Rashad Robinson, told Recode he doesn’t plan to lessen his tough scrutiny — and fierce criticism — of the tech industry.

“We’ve had a lot of campaigns in the recent year, everything from corporates sponsoring the [Republican] convention to Uber being on the Trump business council, and those type of campaigns will continue,” he said. “We believe it’s important that companies that are saying they want to take us into the future do not have business practices that take us into the past.”

For now, Robinson said his group has not received a check from Clinton’s new nonprofit, which previously said it plans to donate to the causes its supports. (Nor, he stressed, has Color of Change asked for cash.) In fact, Robinson said, his team only learned yesterday morning — hours before her tweet — that she supported their organization.

Clinton’s praise is nonetheless striking, however, given her own presidential campaign, which devoted considerable time and effort to courting major tech donors. By Election Day, Clinton had raked in more than $6.2 million from internet-related companies, executives and outside groups, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

A spokesman for Clinton’s Onward Together did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday. It is unclear if the nonprofit, which is not required to disclose its donors, has raised any money from those same tech titans.

Trump, by contrast, fared far worse with the industry. He raised about $57,000 from internet-related donors, the Center’s data show. Ultimately, his gap in support appeared to be the result of his rhetoric: Often, Trump criticized the leaders of Amazon, Apple and others, and to many in the tech sector, his comments about immigrants, women and other minorities proved to be anathema.

To that end, liberal groups like Color of Change spent much of 2016 targeting companies — including tech giants — that sought to boost the Republican candidate’s prospects. The group sent letters and petitions to the likes of AT&T, Adobe, Cisco and Microsoft, for example, urging them to withdraw any planned financial or technical support for the Republican presidential nominating event, held in Cleveland. At Google headquarters, Color of Change also led a small protest — and dispatched a plane to fly a banner above the company — in an attempt to pressure the search giant to #dumpTrump.

Ultimately, some of those companies — like Amazon, Google and Microsoft — aided the convention anyway. But the early efforts by Color of Change and its allies helped galvanize opposition to Trump in the liberal-leaning Bay Area, which has continued protesting his presidency — and the tech executives who work with the White House — in the months since the election.

This year, Color of Change has cast a wide net. The group targeted Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, for one, after he initially agreed to aid Trump as part of his business advisory council. Kalanick ultimately withdrew from the board before its first meeting, citing the outpouring of opposition from his own employees. Color of Change took similar aim at Elon Musk, the leader of SpaceX and Tesla, in a petition alongside other liberal groups, though Musk remains a regular if informal adviser to Trump.

Uber found itself once again in Color of Change’s crosshairs this March, after it released its first-ever diversity report. At the time, the activist group blasted the company’s “workplace culture and business practices” for being “clearly unacceptable.” Before that, Robinson had spent years trying to force Airbnb to make similar changes to its business practices, citing reports of racial discrimination on the home-sharing site.

In the day after Clinton’s announcement, Robinson said the group has noticed a “surge in social media and web traffic.” He said, though, even with the help of Onward Together, Color of Change itself would not change.

“They have to invest in the mission,” he said, “and our mission continues.”


This article originally appeared on Recode.net.

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