Silicon Valley makes a big investment in President Obama's reelection campaign

Silicon Valley makes a big investment in President Obama's reelection campaign

Silicon Valley is lining up behind President Obama's reelection bid, donating more money to his campaign than to any of his Republican rivals.

Computer and Internet companies have donated more than $1.2 million to Obama's 2012 campaign so far, among the highest totals for any industry, according to an analysis of campaign finance data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Microsoft employees are Obama's single biggest industry contributor, followed by employees of Comcast. Google comes in at No. 4.


Silicon Valley seems to be sticking with the president after backing him strongly in 2008. The tech industry donated at least $9.3 million to Obama’s first presidential bid, according to the Center's data.

GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney has received $375,000 from the tech world. The top contributors to Romney's campaign come from financial sector firms such as Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse Group and Morgan Stanley; Microsoft, Comcast and Google do not crack the top 20 of Romney's list of  contributors.

Tech industry backing is even harder to come by for Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), considered a top rival to Romney in the GOP race. The sector is not among Perry’s top 20 donors by industry.

The disparity can be attributed in part to the fundraising advantage that Obama enjoys as an incumbent. He has raised $156 million for the 2012 campaign and for the Democratic National Committee thus far and is building a war chest that the Republican nominee is unlikely to match.

Nonetheless, Obama remains a beloved figure among many in the tech set.

Obama has made Silicon Valley a frequent stop on recent trips West Coast swings. Last month, on a visit to California, he held fundraisers at the homes of former Symantec CEO John Thompson and Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg.

Obama credited tech industry donors with helping him win the White House and implored them to start working for his reelection.

"So I expect all of you, again, not just to be supporting me; you have to be out there, active, engaged — just as engaged as you were in 2008," Obama said at Thompson's house in San Jose, Calif. 

He also referred to the executives present as "my stockholders" and pointed to the role of government research grants in the formation of the Internet.

At Sandberg's soiree, Obama positioned the Democratic Party as defenders of science and innovation, contrasting them to what he called the Republicans' "cramped vision of what America can be."

The visit was one of several stops to the region by Obama this year, including a stop in San Francisco next week that will doubtless continue his efforts to woo the tech industry. In April, Obama took part in a town-hall meeting at Facebook with CEO Mark Zuckerberg that ended up feeling more like a campaign rally thanks to an enthusiastic audience and the presence of allies such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

In February, Obama found time to attend an intimate dinner of tech luminaries at the home of venture capitalist John Doerr, including Zuckerberg, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, ousted Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz and late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

But Obama hasn’t always seen eye to eye with the leaders of the tech world. Jobs, in particular, delivered some harsh criticism to the president, according to a new biography. During a 2010 meeting, Jobs reportedly told Obama bluntly that he would be headed for a "one-term presidency" if he didn't adopt a more business-friendly approach.

Tech firms have also shown a greater interest in working with Republicans since they took control of the House last year. Many have expressed support for the GOP's emphasis on reducing taxes and regulations.

Companies are also wary of getting too close to Obama and becoming a political target.

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, for example, campaigned for Obama in 2008, and Republicans questioned the president’s ties with the company when a number of Google employees joined his administration.

Many tech companies have made a concerted effort in the past year to shed their image as liberal allies. Facebook hired Joel Kaplan, a deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush, as its vice president of U.S. public policy in May. Last month, Facebook hosted an online discussion with the "Young Guns," three leading House Republicans.   

Firms contacted declined to comment on donations by employees.

“Microsoft’s PAC and individual employees support a variety of candidates across the political spectrum; however, we cannot speak to the personal reasons our employees decide to give to any particular campaign,” said a Microsoft spokesman in response to a request to comment for this article

A Google spokeswoman also declined to comment, citing a policy against discussing employees' personal donations.