US tech workers backing candidates looking to break up their employers


  • Tech News
  • Monday, 21 Oct 2019

Employees at Alphabet Inc, Google’s parent company, are widely known as the most politically-engaged workforce among large Silicon Valley companies. — AP

Silicon Valley software engineers seem more loyal to the left wing of the Democratic Party than to their own employers.

US presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, who has called for breaking up Facebook, Amazon and Google, raised more than US$173,000 (RM723,918) from tech industry employees in the third quarter, according to Bloomberg News’ analysis of public data on political contributions from employees at 10 large tech companies.

That was the most of any Democratic presidential candidate. Senator Bernie Sanders, another vocal tech critic, raised the second-most with about US$155,000 (RM648,597). Pete Buttigieg ranked third among the candidates, and Andrew Yang was fourth. Former US Vice President Joe Biden, who continues to lead in many polls, raised US$38,000 (RM159,011). This was about one-third of Yang’s total, and slightly less than Senator Kamala Harris. Political contributions from Silicon Valley’s employees tend to lean heavily Democratic, a trend that showed no signs of abating.

Employees at Alphabet Inc, Google’s parent company, are widely known as the most politically-engaged workforce among large Silicon Valley companies. Sure enough, they continued to be the most active Democratic donors during the months of July, August and September, contributing about US$238,000 (RM995,911). Microsoft employees contributed the next largest sum, totaling about US$126,000 (RM527,247).

The other companies Bloomberg looked at were Airbnb Inc, Amazon.com Inc, Apple Inc, Facebook Inc, International Business Machines Corp, Lyft Inc, Oracle Corp and Uber Technologies Inc. Altogether, their employees donated US$752,000 (RM3.14mil). That’s big money for Democratic politics, but less than many four-person tech startups raise from venture capitalists before they’ve even created a product.

Alphabet’s employees were particularly enamored of Warren. They gave about 40% more money to Warren than they did to Sanders, their second-favourite Democratic candidate. Microsoft and Amazon employees preferred Sanders.

Warren has said that she would return checks of more than US$200 (RM837) from executives at "big tech companies, big banks, private equity firms, or hedge funds”.

Not everyone in tech is rushing to open their wallets. Employees at the ride-hailing company, many of whom hold stock that has dropped in value and is still subjected to lockup agreements which keep them from cashing out, weren’t heavy spenders. Employees at Lyft contributed more than double the amount their counterparts at Uber did, despite similar restrictions on their newfound wealth, a dynamic that reinforced Lyft’s image of being more socially engaged than its ride-hailing rival.

Many of Warren’s largest tech donations come from software engineers at low-profile companies like Twilio, MongoDB, Adobe, and Mailchimp. But prominent names in tech like Andy Dunn, the co-founder of Bonobos, Matt Mullenweg, the CEO of Automattic, Jennifer Pahlka, executive director of Code for America, and Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist, all cut checks for Warren.

Fred Wilson, the co-founder of the venture capital firm Union Square Ventures, has been critical of Warren’s plan to break up big tech companies, and has tweeted that he doesn’t think she represents "the future”. Yet he donated US$2,800 (RM11,716) to her campaign. "If you look, you will see that my wife and I have supported many of the candidates. We want a full and vibrant debate of the ideas and we want the candidates to be able to sustain themselves to be able to do that,” Wilson said in an email. In the last two years, Wilson has also given to several congressional candidates, the Democratic organising group Tech for Campaigns, and the presidential campaign of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Venture capitalist Jeremy Liew, a major early investor in Snap Inc, also cut a check to Warren. Snap has at times bristled at what it sees as unfair competition from Facebook. Federal investigators are looking into some of its claims. Asked whether Warren’s criticism of Facebook made him more likely to support her, Liew wrote in an email, "She’s got a plan! Seriously though I’m not that interested in commenting on my political beliefs.” – Bloomberg


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