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Recode Daily: How one of the richest people ever to run for president spends his money

Plus: Infowars returns to YouTube, then is deleted again.

Democratic presidential candidate and hedge fund manager Tom Steyer speaking and gesturing onstage.
Democratic presidential candidate and hedge fund manager Tom Steyer speaks during the Democratic Presidential Committee summer meeting on August 23, 2019, in San Francisco.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Note: Recode Daily will take a break for the Labor Day holiday. We’ll return to our regularly scheduled tech roundup on Wednesday, September 4.

Billionaires are out of favor in Democratic politics. But here’s how one billionaire spent $400 million on Democratic politics anyway. Tom Steyer, the San Francisco billionaire and 2020 Democratic candidate, released 10 years of tax returns this week. Steyer is offering us that rare glimpse into the complex business, political, and philanthropic ties of the country’s 1 percent. Steyer, who made his fortune at his hedge fund, has a net worth of $1.6 billion and is perhaps the wealthiest person ever to run for president.

  • Where’s the money going? In 2010, when their net worth was about $1.3 billion, Steyer and his wife were among the first billionaires to sign the Giving Pledge, a public declaration that they would give at least half of their money to charity either during their lifetime or in their will. The records Steyer released on Thursday show he and his wife donated $190 million to charitable causes between 2009 and 2017. Steyer also spent about $365 million on political activities between 2009 and 2017, the returns show. And he has pledged to spend $100 million on his presidential campaign, a sum that could almost certainly impact the race at the margins.
    [Theodore Schleifer / Recode]

Infowars returns to YouTube, then is deleted again. Only a day after YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki wrote a letter to YouTube’s creators about the importance of keeping the platform open to content that some find offensive, the Infowars War Room reopened its YouTube channel, according to Vice. The same day, after being contacted by Vice about the channel, YouTube deleted it again. A YouTube spokesperson told Vice: “We’re committed to preserving openness and balancing it with our responsibility to protect our community. This means taking action against channels that continue to violate our policies.”

  • YouTube says it knows the line between staying open and keeping order: Wojcicki says YouTube is okay with the idea that some people will be upset with some things they find on YouTube, which could include “content that is outside the mainstream, controversial, or even offensive,” Recode’s Peter Kafka reported earlier this week. But she draws a line when it comes to content that violates YouTube’s policies, which she argues is both rare and damaging.
    [Matthew Gault / Vice]

Uber’s half-billion dollar marketing campaign to rebuild its image last year didn’t pay off. In the wake of the #DeleteUber campaign in 2017, Uber launched an aggressive national branding campaign to repair its reputation with drivers and riders alike. It hasn’t worked. According to the Washington Post, Uber’s metrics, which rely on a mixture of internal tracking tools and external polling firms, place its brand sentiment near the same lows measured in the depths of its crisis.

  • Uber knows it still has a problem: Uber’s reputation struggles have taken a toll on revenue growth. Uber laid off 400 employees in July, most of whom were responsible for helping improve the company’s external image. And before its IPO in May, Uber mentioned the need to maintain and enhance its brand and reputation as critical to the company’s future success in its filing.
    [Faiz Siddiqui / Washington Post]

The US is way behind on mobile payment use. About 81 percent of Americans own a smartphone, up from 35 percent just eight years ago, according to CNBC. But most Americans don’t use their phones to make payments: The adoption rate for major mobile payments apps is less than 10 percent. Compare that to China, where mobile payments made up more than 80 percent of all purchases in the country last year.

  • Why? One reason is that for countries like China and India, cash was the only payment option before mobile payment apps arrived. In the US, paying for stuff with credit and debit cards is a well-established system.
    [Kate Rooney / CNBC]

Beach reads for the long weekend:

Mary Meeker’s most important trends on the internet [Rani Molla / Recode]

Female scientists are up against a lot of unconscious bias. Here’s how to fight it [Sigal Samuel / Vox]

Which 2020 candidates would you swipe right on? [Eve Peyser / The New York Times]

Leaked emails show how white nationalists have infiltrated conservative media [Hannah Gais / Splinter]

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