Silicon Valley pours money into Biden’s campaign — and snubs Trump’s
Steve Ballmer, the world’s fifth-richest person, appears to be getting more political. | Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images Biden is sweeping up cash from billionaires, CEOs, and political kingmakers in a show of force. 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 Donald Trump. The breakdown came into the clearest view yet in fundraising reports released Wednesday that 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 between Biden and Democratic Parties 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 the backbone of Biden’s high-dollar fundraising shop. 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 didcut 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 that Thiel has extended to Trump since the last gift he made in October 2018. Thiel is instead focusing on down-ballot races so far, and 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 the behalf of Kobach, who Democrats at least see as a weak general-election candidate. Another billionaire leaving a surprise 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 most known as the exuberant owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, has not been known as particularly ideological or even that political. He’s funded Republicans and Democrats over the years, but in generally modicum amounts compared to his billionaire peers. But Ballmer made a landmark political donation this spring, when he gave $7 million to Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun-control group founded by Mike Bloomberg that primarily supports Democrats. (Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor, ran for president this year.) It is Ballmer’s single-largest disclosed donation ever, over 200 times as big as his next biggest check ($32,000.) And it comes around the same time that his wife, 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 their foot down with the same financial force as Steve Ballmer did this spring. And in a tech industry shaken by Trump, they’re proving to be not alone. Support Vox’s explanatory journalism Every day at Vox, we aim to answer your most important questions and provide you, and our audience around the world, with information that has the power to save lives. Our mission has never been more vital than it is in this moment: to empower you through understanding. Vox’s work is reaching more people than ever, but our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources — particularly during a pandemic and an economic downturn. Your financial contribution will not constitute a donation, but it will enable our staff to continue to offer free articles, videos, and podcasts at the quality and volume that this moment requires. Please consider making a contribution to Vox today.