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Big Tech opponent Bernie Sanders raises more money from Big Tech employees than anyone else

Sanders, an avowed democratic socialist, has been highly critical of tech companies. Their employees don’t seem to mind.

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders surrounded by supporters. ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

Despite his criticisms of companies like Amazon, Bernie Sanders is raising more money from Big Tech than any other 2020 presidential candidate.

Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Twitter employees funneled almost $270,000 into the Sanders campaign during the last three months of 2019, according to new fundraising disclosures filed this weekend. Almost half of that money came from employees of Google, according to an analysis for Recode by GovPredict.

Looking at contributions from workers at five large companies doesn’t tell the complete story of Silicon Valley’s financial support. But it offers one concrete way to stack-rank how the “tech industry” — so nebulously defined — is splitting when it comes to political support.

All told, the new data shows how the rank and file at Big Tech companies are rallying behind some of the candidates who are the least friendly to Big Tech and to the current system of capitalism more broadly. Sanders, an avowed democratic socialist, emerged in the last three months of the year as one of the campaign’s frontrunners and is now, for the first time, outraising other candidates with small donations from these tech employees and others.

Sanders frequently rails against the power of tech companies — particularly Amazon, which he says pays no federal income tax — but his rhetoric about Silicon Valley’s power is often vague, and he has not answered some key questions about how he would regulate the industry. (It’s unclear how much Amazon actually pays in taxes; the company has responded that it’s simply following American tax law and paying what the government says it owes.)

Also performing surprisingly well with Big Tech employees in the final months of 2019 was Andrew Yang, the nonprofit entrepreneur, who wasn’t far behind Sanders with a haul of $230,000. Yang is not a top-tier candidate and hasn’t raised overall as much as his rivals. But Yang has a legion of fans at many tech companies, likely because he has positioned himself as a friend to the tech industry, often peppering his speeches with references to “my friends in Silicon Valley” when he explains topics like automation.

Coming in third place was Elizabeth Warren, who raised about $170,000 from these companies’ workforces. Warren has been the most explicit and aggressive about her plans to break up Big Tech companies, although she also has surprisingly strong support from Silicon Valley elites and tech employees. A dozen employees of these companies cut max-out checks of $2,800 to Warren’s campaign, including eight from Google.

But the candidate performing the best with these higher-dollar, executive-level donors in the tech industry is Pete Buttigieg, who has ridden a wave of enthusiasm from Silicon Valley for almost his entire campaign. Buttigieg raised about $120,000 from Big Tech employees, although he has the widest support among Silicon Valley’s wealthy outside these companies. (As with Warren, a dozen Big Tech employees maxed out to Buttigieg’s campaign in the final quarter.) His big-money fundraising events that he has hosted near-monthly are packed with Silicon Valley executives and billionaire celebrities.

The weakest major candidate in Silicon Valley remains Joe Biden, who has struggled to build inroads in the Bay Area with both elite donors and regular tech workers, outside of loyal alumni from the Obama campaign and administration. He raised just over $40,000 from Big Tech employees in the fourth quarter — only a sixth of what Sanders raised.

Another broader takeaway from this fundraising data is just how much more political Google’s workforce is than its rivals’. Workers at Google, a company that until recently was known for a culture of internal debate and political inquiry, are giving more than twice as much money to political campaigns as are those at the next closest company, Amazon, which employs seven times as many people.

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