Silicon Valley’s elite are choosing their partisan teams with just over 100 days to go until Election Day — and few appear to be backing President Donald Trump.
The clearest view yet of the breakdown came in fundraising reports released Wednesday. They portray a tech industry that has unmistakably coalesced around Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, despite him being the first choice of few during the party primary. Now, juxtaposed against a president long reviled by the power set of Silicon Valley, Biden is sweeping up cash from billionaires, CEOs, and political kingmakers in a show of force.
A who’s who of tech’s rich and powerful cut checks of up to $620,600 — the legal maximum — to a jumbo-sized joint fundraising committee of Biden and Democratic Party groups around the country after April 1, when the primary was effectively over and the fundraising quarter began. The committee’s fundraising report makes clear that Silicon Valley forms a large part of the backbone of Biden’s high-dollar fundraising operation. For instance, of the dozen people who gave the legal maximum to the Biden Victory Fund, half came from the Bay Area.
Among the tech billionaires giving the legal maximum, or close to it: Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz; philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs; eBay’s first full-time employee, Jeff Skoll; Zynga founder Mark Pincus; and media moguls Barry Diller and Jeffrey Katzenberg. If you scanned the Biden Victory Fund’s report, every few lines you’d find another marquee name who forked over hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The quarterly fundraising report of Trump Victory reads much differently. While high-wattage supporters of the president do exist in Silicon Valley, they have preferred to maintain low profiles in an industry where they fear backlash.
So the billionaires who did cut major checks to Trump stand out even more. The sole tech titan who cut a significant check last quarter to Trump’s joint fundraising group with the Republican Parties was Safra Catz, the CEO of the software giant Oracle. Catz and her husband each donated $125,000 to Trump Victory in the spring, the latest sign of coziness between Trump and Oracle, which perhaps more than any other tech giant has fostered a close relationship with the White House.
In some ways, who was missing from Trump’s quarterly fundraising report was more notable than who was on it. That’s especially true for Peter Thiel, the billionaire who served as Trump’s emissary to Silicon Valley after loudly backing Trump in 2016 to the chagrin of his industry. Thiel, who has reportedly drawn distance from the president and is now a non-factor in Trump’s orbit, did not make a donation to Trump Victory during the three-month period — extending the fundraising snub from Thiel since the last gift he made in October 2018.
Thiel is instead focusing so far on down-ballot races, and on one race in particular. In June, Thiel invested an additional $500,000 in a super PAC that he set up to back Kris Kobach, a hardline immigration official running for the Republican nomination for the US Senate in Kansas. Thiel has now spent $750,000 on behalf of Kobach, whom Democrats at least see as a weak general-election candidate.
Another billionaire leaving a noteworthy mark on the election, the reports reveal, is former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who is now the world’s fifth-richest person. Ballmer, who is today best known as the exuberant owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, has not been seen as particularly ideological. He’s funded Republicans and Democrats over the years, but in generally modest amounts compared to his billionaire peers.
But Ballmer and his wife, Connie, made a landmark political donation this spring when they gave $7 million to Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun-control group founded by Mike Bloomberg that primarily supports down-ballot Democrats. (Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor, campaigned for the Democratic nomination for president this year.) The donation is the Ballmers’ single-largest disclosed donation ever, more than 200 times as large as Steve Ballmer’s next-biggest check ($32,000). And it came around the same time that Connie Ballmer cut her own single-biggest disclosed check, a half-million dollars to a pro-Biden super PAC.
The Ballmers have long been advocates for gun control. But they have never put a foot down with the same financial force as they did this spring. And in a tech industry shaken by Trump, they’re proving to be not alone.