Tech donors nearly struck out in '14

Major donors from the technology industry struck out in a number of races as Republicans won back the Senate and increased their majority in the House on Tuesday night.   

All but two of the seven candidates backed by MayDay Pac lost their races on election night. The super-PAC has received large donations from technology executives and is dedicated to electing candidates who support campaign finance reform. 

MayDay's only wins came in relatively safe districts, but co-founder Lawrence Lessig said the group would continue to pursue its cause with “fierce urgency.”


“It was a tough night across the board for supporters of reform, but we’re glad we engaged in this fight,” he said in a statement. “We feel confident that we made progress and we’re collecting and examining data over the next couple of days that can illustrate the impact that Mayday achieved in our races.”

MayDay Pac was formed in late April by Lessig, a Harvard professor, and Republican operative Mark McKinnon. It relies on a mixture of large donations by wealthy donors and thousands of smaller contributions. 

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which was commissioned to manage $6 million of the super-PAC's spending, said the campaign was successful in making some powerful incumbents think twice. 

"If MayDay had chosen four safe incumbents to endorse and they all won, and they had a four-for-four track record, would that have a bigger impact than targeting a supposedly safe and powerful committee chair?" Adam Green, the group's cofounder said. 

The super-PAC viewed 2014 as a pilot run to test out its model in a handful of races, which could then be expanded to 80 races in 2016. It raised a little more than $10 million this cycle.

A good portion came from a $500,000 check from investor Sean Parker, as well as other large donations from the co-founders of Twitter, LinkedIn, PayPal, Yelp, and the curator of TED Conferences. 

The super-PAC dumped the most money — more than $2 million — into Michigan's 6th District in an attempt to unseat Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.). 

Upton safely cruised to victory by a 15-point margin, and accused the group of angering some donors by targeting him. Upton's office reportedly reached out to a tech lobbyist at one point to ask why he was being targeted.

Some donors to the group are newer to politics than other, Green said. And the tiff with Upton was a net positive, he said. 

"There might be some others that decide getting too far involved in politics isn't for them…overall, I think the net effect of Fred Upton freaking out and trying to intimidate MayDay donors was a positive one, proving the concept that MayDay is a force to be reckoned with."

Mayday also backed the failed Senate bids of Kansas Independent Greg Orman and South Dakota Democrat Rick Weiland. It also supported two losing Democrats in competitive House races in Iowa and New Hampshire.

MayDay's only victories came in two uncompetitive districts — GOP Rep. Walter Jones in North Carolina and Democrat Ruben Gallego in Arizona's 7th District.

According to the group's mission statement, it purposefully avoided exclusively supporting candidates expected to win. 

“We must select districts where a victory would be both surprising, and understood to be tied to this reform,” the mission statement reads. 

The group’s defeats can largely be attributed to a tough election landscape for Democrats, and the night wasn’t a total wash for tech donors.

A pro-immigration reform group founded by Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg spent around $700,000 in support of Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenTrump makes rare campaign stops in New England in closing stretch GOP coronavirus bill blocked as deal remains elusive Justice indicts two members of ISIS 'Beatles' cell MORE (D-N.H.), who narrowly won. 

FWD.us said the results were a “crystal clear loss” for opponents of immigration reform. 

“Sen. Jeanne Shaheen just won an extremely difficult reelection against former Sen. Scott Brown, who ran paid ads slamming her for supporting ‘amnesty’ in the form of her vote on the bipartisan Senate bill, and repeatedly utilized harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric in his attacks,” the group's spokeswoman Kate Hansen said in a statement. 

It also appears that Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerHillicon Valley: Big Tech hearing the most partisan yet | Rubio warns about foreign election interference | Trump campaign site briefly hacked Rubio warns that election interference may ramp up around Election Day Senate Intel leadership urges American vigilance amid foreign election interference MORE (D-Va.), who faced a closer than expected race, has overcome his Republican opponent Ed Gillespie.

Technology donors gave Warner the third most cash of all candidates this cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. 

But another preferred candidate of the technology industry appears to be heading toward defeat in a Democrat vs. Democrat matchup in California. 

Democrat Ro Khanna, who received the most money from donors in the computer and Internet industry, trails his opponent, Democratic Rep. Mike Honda. Khanna, who received more than $420,000 from the industry, trails Honda by around 3,500 votes with some absentee ballots still outstanding.

—Updated 2 p.m.