Meet Silicon Valley’s mega-donors


Silicon Valley’s top political operatives are flexing their muscle in the 2016 campaign.

A Facebook co-founder this month announced his plans to give heavily to Democrats, while the co-founder of LinkedIn offered up to $5 million in an effort to get Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump to release his tax returns.

Still, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton hasn’t drawn the same levels of support in the tech sector that President Obama did. And few things have become as hard to find in Silicon Valley as a vocal Trump supporter, with the notable exception of investor Peter Thiel.

Though employees at tech companies largely give to Democratic candidates, some in tech’s elite are more attracted to Republican campaigns.

Here’s a look at some of the mega-donors who are funneling Silicon Valley money into politics.

Dustin Moskovitz and Cari Tuna 

Moskovitz, who as one of Mark Zuckerberg’s roommates co-founded Facebook, had before this year only given to one political candidate: Sean Eldridge, the husband of another Facebook founder who ran for Congress in 2014.

But that is changing. Last week, he announced that he and his wife, philanthropist and former Wall Street Journal reporter Cari Tuna, would be giving $20 million to support Democratic candidates in this election. It’s an eye-popping sum that catapults the two into the top rank of donors nationwide.

Half of the cash is going to two political action committees. One of those PACs is run by the League of Conservation Voters, while the other is the brainchild of unions who are working with Tom Steyer, a billionaire who has been giving extensively to environmentalist causes. The couple will also give to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, among other groups. 

Moskovitz founded Facebook with Zuckerberg and, like his friend and former colleague, dropped out of Harvard to build the website. He left the social network in 2008 and founded Asana, a workplace collaboration tools. Forbes estimates his net worth to be $10.4 billion. 

He said in a Medium post that he and Tuna were moved to donate because of the rhetoric coming from Republicans, and Trump in particular.

“We hope these efforts make it a little more likely that Secretary Clinton is able to pursue the agenda she’s outlined, and serve as a signal to the Republican Party that by running this kind of campaign  —  one built on fear and hostility   — and supporting this kind of candidate, they compel people to act in response,” Moskovitz said.

Larry Ellison

Oracle founder Larry Ellison may be one of the largest donors from Silicon Valley this cycle largely because of his support for one man: Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.

Ellison gave a combined $5 million to the Super PAC supporting Rubio’s presidential campaign. The final donation, for a million dollars, came in February. Rubio dropped out of the race about a month later. 

He has stayed loyal to Rubio now that he is running for reelection to the Senate. The billionaire gave $100,000 in July to the super-PAC backing his bid. He’s also given to the joint fundraising committee for Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

Ellison has continued to keep a high profile despite stepping back from the chief executive post of Oracle in 2014. Now, he’s the company’s chairman and chief technology officer — and worth more than $49 billion.

Meg Whitman

Republican Hewlett-Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman has gone against the grain this year. 

First, she gave $100,000 in March to a super-PAC aimed at stopping Trump’s rise. Then, in August, Whitman announced that she would endorse Clinton’s candidacy, citing Trump’s rhetoric. She also gave $50,000 as part of a Clinton fundraiser, according to a report.

“Donald Trump’s demagoguery has undermined the fabric of our national character,” Whitman said at the time. “America needs the kind of stable and aspirational leadership Secretary Clinton can provide.”

Before defecting to Clinton, Whitman was a supporter of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s presidential bid. She gave political action committees associated with Christie $305,000 this cycle.

Peter Thiel

Thiel has drawn attention this cycle for his support of Trump’s candidacy, but he’s never actually donated to the businessman’s campaign. He doesn’t plan to in the future, according to a statement his spokesperson gave the Wall Street Journal.

But he’s still one of Silicon Valley’s top donors this cycle because he gave $2 million to the super-PAC backing former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina’s failed presidential run.

The PayPal co-founder and early investor in Facebook has since backed several congressional candidates. Most of Thiel’s campaign cash is going to candidates who share his conservative views.

Thiel has donated to the congressional campaign of Paul Babeu, an Arizona sheriff who is an immigration hardliner, and to Grant Starrett, a lawyer who launched an unsuccessful primary challenge to Rep. Scott Desjarlais (R-Tenn.).

It’s his support for Trump, though, that has drawn the most attention. 

“When Donald Trump asks us to Make America Great Again, he’s not suggesting a return to the past,” he said when he spoke at the Republican National Convention this year. “He’s running to lead us back to that bright future.” 

Marc and Lynne Benioff

Marc Benioff, the founder of enterprise software maker Salesforce, is a devoted Hillary Clinton supporter who sometimes crosses the aisle.

He and wife Lynne are members of the Hillblazers, the people who have raised or donated at least $100,000 for the Democratic nominee.

“By 5 years old your destiny in this country is set and that’s where I am disappointed that I haven’t heard more of that narrative,” Benioff told CNN in March, “and I feel the one person who has delivered that discussion over and over again, including her Too Small To Fail initiative, is Hillary Clinton, and that’s why I am backing her.”

He’s also given to several other prominent Democrats, including New York Sen. Charles Schumer, California Senate candidate Kamala Harris and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)

That hasn’t stopped him from donating to Republicans as well, separately from his wife.

He gave $20,000 to the joint fundraising committee of Speaker Paul Ryan (Wis.) and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) this cycle. He did something similar in 2012, when he supported Obama but gave to Ryan as well.

Tags Chuck Schumer Dianne Feinstein Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Marco Rubio Orrin Hatch Paul Ryan

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