Trump gets cold shoulder from Silicon Valley

Trump gets cold shoulder from Silicon Valley
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Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says his faith is 'bedrock foundation of my life' after Trump claim Coronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Ohio governor tests negative in second coronavirus test MORE is an unpopular man in Silicon Valley.

The presumptive GOP nominee’s opposition to free-trade policies and hard-line approach to immigration are unpopular with the tech industry, which benefitted from globalization and is keen to reform the visa process for skilled workers. 

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Trump’s talk of an Apple boycott after the company refused to help the FBI break into its phone was also deeply unpopular in the Valley. But there is also a general distaste, like in many other circles, for Trump's temperament and rhetoric. 

Republicans inside the technology industry predict Trump is almost certain to raise less money from tech donors than Mitt Romney, the previous Republican nominee.

And the cancelation of a high-dollar fundraiser at the home of a major technology executive during Trump's swing through the area this week could be a preview of how he’ll struggle to make inroads. 

“I know many of the active Republicans in Silicon Valley, and so far I'm not aware of any of them who are supporting Trump,” said Alex Slusky, the managing director of Vector Capital, a San Francisco company that invests in tech companies. 

Consumer Technology Association President Gary Shapiro, whose organization includes 2,000 tech companies as members, said he has only heard from about two executives about support for Trump.

“I would be surprised if Donald Trump raises as much money as Mitt Romney did or John McCainJohn Sidney McCainCNN's Ana Navarro to host Biden roundtable on making 'Trump a one-term president' Mark Kelly clinches Democratic Senate nod in Arizona Prominent conservatives question Jerry Falwell Jr. vacation photo MORE did if you count contributions directly to him," Shapiro said. 

At another point he added, "Donald Trump has said everything possible against our industry."

In a midnight statement on Wednesday, Intel was forced to clarify that its CEO Brian Krzanich “is not endorsing” Trump after word leaked out about a $25,000-a-head fundraiser featuring Trump.

The fundraiser was scheduled to be hosted at the executive's home, but ended up not taking place. 

Many expressed initial surprise when invitations went out for the Intel CEO's fundraiser, because Trump's trade policies appear to be at odds with the company's interests. Others simply pointed to Trump's rhetoric clashing with Intel's commitment to diversity. 

Slusky has been an active Republican donor in past cycles and cut a $100,000 check earlier this year for a super-PAC supporting Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioPessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire McConnell: Wearing a mask is 'single most significant thing' to fight pandemic McConnell goes hands-off on coronavirus relief bill MORE. He told The Hill that past GOP presidential candidates who wanted to build support in Silicon Valley made extensive trips to the area to talk, but he was not aware of any previous outreach by Trump. 

Though prominent Republican members of Congress have recently backed Trump's campaign, Slusky said GOP donors are not under as much pressure. That makes it easier to stay on the sidelines or redirect money to down-ballot races.

Slusky did say that it was unlikely that large sums of money would be redirected to Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump touts economic agenda in battleground Ohio The Memo: Campaigns gird for rush of early voting Trump's pitch to Maine lobstermen falls flat MORE

Other registered Republicans like Michael Kim, the managing partner of Cendana Capital in San Francisco, said they are opting for the Libertarian ticket. 

“If you are looking for a Silicon Valley Republican perspective, Trump is certainly not the one that the average Silicon Valley Republican would want to support,” said Kim. “But you have this, sort of, rock and a hard place-type decision presuming Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee.”

Overall, Silicon Valley voters and donors are overwhelmingly Democratic.

In 2012, President Obama won the Bay area by a margin of about 50 percent, and the New York Times found that about $8 out of every $10 donated by employees of the most admired tech companies went to Obama over Romney that cycle. 

So why does Silicon Valley support matter for a Republican? 

Aside from individual donations to a candidate, there are big money donors in the area to help fund outside groups. For example, Oracle founder Larry Ellison donated $4 million this cycle to outside groups supporting Marco Rubio before he dropped out of the GOP race. Billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel donated $2 million to a group supporting Carly Fiorina. 

Thiel, the Facebook board member who has made news recently for helping fund Hulk Hogan's lawsuit against Gawker, was selected to be a delegate for Donald Trump at the convention next month. A representative said he was not available to discuss it, and he has not explained his decision. 

Garrett Johnson, the head of the conservative-leaning Lincoln Initiative, said it is still unclear what that delegate role means, noting that Thiel has made a career out of going against trends. 

“Peter Thiel is a delegate but he refuses to talk about it whatsoever,” Johnson said. “He has tacitly endorsed Trump by agreeing to be a delegate on his behalf, but he refuses to say anything reflective of support or an endorsement of Trump.”

Republicans say Trump would do well to reevaluate some of his policies important to the tech industry if he wants to win more support.

But that does not appear to be happening. 

During a rally in the heart of Silicon Valley on Thursday night, Trump's only real reference to the industry was when he resurfaced his allegations that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos bought The Washington Post to help push back on monopoly concerns. 

There are no real stakes in Tuesday’s California primary for Trump since he is already the presumptive nominee. But Republicans in Silicon Valley still have a symbolic choice to make. 

For example, Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman has vowed not to support Trump, but a representative wouldn’t say how she would fill out the ballot. 

Others believe that Trump is so unpopular in San Francisco that Republicans there will vote for one of the candidates who have already dropped out. Many of their names remain on the ballot. 

“I'll bet you, out of the race, someone else is likely to win San Francisco in the Republican primary than Donald Trump,” said Slusky, of Vector Capital.