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Big Tech political donations flowed to Biden as employees spurned Trump

Big Tech political donations flowed to Biden as employees spurned Trump

by Katherine Doyle | Washington Examiner  |  Published on February 23, 2021

President Biden raised millions of dollars from employees at Silicon Valley technology firms in his race to win the election, with donations from staffers at Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple outpacing other corporate donors.

The numbers, according to an analysis of newly released campaign finance reports, show how Big Tech’s rank and file backed Biden overwhelmingly.

The president raised about $15 million from employees at these firms, making them the five largest aggregate corporate donors to Biden’s campaign and joint fundraising committee, records show. Corporations cannot give directly to campaigns, but their employees can, providing a window into the political leanings of their staff.

Employees of Google and Alphabet gave Biden about $5.3 million, with donations from staff at Facebook coming in around $1.9 million, $2.6 million at Amazon, $3.2 million at Microsoft, and $1.9 million from Apple, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Former President Donald Trump raised significantly less from Big Tech staffers during the presidential race, drawing about $500,000 in total from employees at the same five firms.

Instead, his largest aggregate corporate donors were employees of American Airlines, Boeing, Bank of America, Lockheed Martin, and Wells Fargo, raising less than $400,000 from each, according to records compiled by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

The Washington Examiner’s analysis is based on the latest Federal Election Commission data for the 2020 presidential election cycle, including Biden’s campaign fundraising totals and two joint fundraising committees, with the data sorted by employers to compile aggregate donations. Each person can give a maximum of $2,800 directly, while donations above $200 must give the name of the contributors’ employer. Because donors self-report employer details, records may be incomplete, and so the numbers available are an estimate.

Supporters can make larger donations through pro-candidate political organizations that are not affiliated with a campaign. Silicon Valley Biden-backers gave additionally through those.

Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskowitz donated $46 million to Biden, routing most of that amount through Future Forward USA, a Democratic super PAC that reports to the Federal Election Commission as FF PAC.

Trump’s largest aggregate contribution came from Las Vegas Sands, a $45 million donation to an organization backed by Republican megadonors Sheldon Adelson and Bernie Marcus, Preserve America PAC. The group launched in August with a battery of campaign advertisements.

Tech companies faced increased scrutiny under Trump.

While in office, the former president argued that firms use their power to silence people they don’t like and said that he and other conservatives were unfairly targeted online.

He blamed Twitter and Facebook for dividing the country after they banned him in the wake of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot carried out by some of his supporters, the firms’ strongest action yet.

“I think that Big Tech is doing a horrible thing for our country and to our country, and I believe it’s going to be a catastrophic mistake for them. They’re dividing and divisive,” Trump told reporters last month.

He said the companies had made a “terrible mistake” and that there is a “countermove” ahead, but he has yet to disclose further details.

Apple, Google, and Amazon also suspended Parler, a Twitter competitor, from their respective app stores, stating that the company had failed to excise violent rhetoric on its platform.

The move incensed Trump, who said he would “not be SILENCED!” and pledged a “big announcement soon.”

Trump, who had previously clashed with technology firms, sharply criticized their protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a measure that shields social media platforms from liability for content shared by their users.

He vetoed the annual defense bill after it did not include language to remove the liability protections for tech platforms, but Congress overrode his move.

Some lawmakers have said the companies have grown too big, and there appears to be bipartisan support for measures to reduce their influence.

Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican, said last year that he had one message for Silicon Valley’s “Big Tech oligarchs,” tweeting that “winter is coming.”

Facebook is fighting off regulatory action by the Federal Trade Commission, and Google is fending off the Department of Justice, accused by the government of harming competitors illegally.

Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, also a Republican, called the Federal Trade Commission’s lawsuit, which would unwind Facebook’s acquisition of social media companies Instagram and WhatsApp, “a necessity.”

The Biden administration is expected to continue the case, and in a confirmation hearing Monday, Biden’s attorney general pick, Merrick Garland, said he would “vigorously” enforce antitrust law.

Asked whether he would consider dismantling Big Tech companies, Biden said on the campaign trail that this was “something we should take a really hard look at.”

Before Biden came into office, government accountability watchdogs had drawn attention to his advisers’ corporate ties.

The Obama administration came under fire for its Silicon Valley hires, and veterans of that White House, and Silicon Valley firms, are finding their way back into the new administration.

Insiders joined the transition’s agency review teams last year, helping plan for the incoming presidency and holding sway over thousands of political and staff appointments, including for top posts at the Federal Trade Commission, Federal Communications Commission, and at the Justice Department, overseeing the agency’s antitrust work.

After vetting personnel, many moved into White House positions of their own.

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