Silicon Valley All Grown Up
Big Tech Firms Back GOP Candidates

Silicon Valley is no longer a reliable ally for Democrats. In 2016, several major tech PACs donated more money to GOP congressional candidates than they did to Democratic ones. Thomas Edsall discusses the development in the New York Times:

In 2016, the corporate PACs associated with Microsoft, Facebook, Google and Amazon broke ranks with the traditional allegiance of the broad tech sector to the Democratic Party. All four donated more money to Republican Congressional candidates than they did to their Democratic opponents.

As these technology firms have become corporate behemoths, their concerns over government regulatory policy have intensified — on issues including privacy, taxation, automation and antitrust. These are questions on which they appear to view Republicans as stronger allies than Democrats.

In 2016, the PACs of these four firms gave a total of $3.6 million to House and Senate candidates. Of that, $2.1 million went to Republicans, and $1.5 million went to Democrats. These PACs did not contribute to presidential candidates.

The PACs stand apart from donations by employees in the technology and internet sectors. According to OpenSecrets, these employees gave $42.4 million to Democrats and $24.2 million to Republicans.

As Edsall notes, Silicon Valley clearly preferred Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump, but that didn’t stop major companies from supporting other GOP candidates. Edsall ascribes this political shift to many causes, including the growing tension between solidarity with the Left on social issues and dissonance on economic issues. The Democratic Party’s leftward turn on taxes and regulation worries executives who would prefer to see tax and regulatory reforms.

This is the maturation of Silicon Valley industry from an upstart revolutionary to a middle-aged adult. As Wall Street and other business sectors do, Silicon Valley is now hedging its political bets so that it retains influence and respect no matter who is in power. Silicon Valley is joining a venerable tradition in American politics going back to when banks dramatically switched from supporting Alton B. Parker to Theodore Roosevelt after polls indicated Roosevelt was way ahead. Private sector interests aren’t always advocating specific issues—they’re often simply making sure they have a foot in both doorways. So while yes, this is a reflection of misaligned policy preferences, it’s also simply a sign that companies like Google and Facebook are now operating more like GE and Citibank than like the startups they used to be.

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