Trump, GOP make inroads in Silicon Valley

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Former President Trump took to the Democratic bastion of San Francisco last week to meet with a growing cohort of conservative technology executives, as the GOP appears to be making inroads in traditionally deep blue Silicon Valley.

At a fundraiser hosted Thursday night by venture capitalists David Sacks and Chamath Palihapitiya, Trump raked in millions as he courted prominent figures in the tech and cryptocurrency industries.

While some in Silicon Valley have long supported Republicans, a growing number who once donated to Democrats are now backing Trump’s bid against President Biden. 

Shaun Maguire, a partner at the venture capital firm Sequoia Capital, came out in support of the former president last month, after he was convicted on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. 

“I just donated $300k to President Trump,” Maguire wrote in a post on the social platform X. “The timing isn’t a coincidence.” 

Maguire noted in a lengthy post explaining his decision that he previously donated to and voted for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. 

While he said he was “disillusioned and didn’t vote” in 2020, records show the venture capitalist continued to financially support Democratic candidates in lower-level races during that election cycle, according to the campaign finance tracker OpenSecrets.

“Now, in 2024, I believe this is one of the most important elections of my lifetime, and I’m supporting Trump,” Maguire added.

Tech adviser Jacob Helberg, who attended last Thursday’s fundraiser, was also once a prominent Democratic donor, contributing to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Vice President Harris and even Biden as they vied for 2020 Democratic nomination.

However, the tides appear to have turned in late 2021, when Helberg began donating to several Republicans, including Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters, Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Sen. Tom Cotton (Ark.), according to OpenSecrets.

Helberg has since donated $1 million to the Trump campaign, according to The Washington Post.

“Last night, there was energy and excitement for a Republican presidential candidate unlike anything I’ve ever seen in Silicon Valley,” Helberg said in a statement following the fundraiser for the former president in San Francisco.

“This event was proof that President Trump’s campaign is creating a generational realignment among technology founders, Millennials, gays, and Jewish Americans that transcends party lines and makes him more competitive in even the most traditionally blue communities,” he added.

Wealthy tech entrepreneurs have previously been “very left-wing” on most issues other than regulation, said Neil Malhotra, a professor of political economy at the Stanford Graduate School of Business who surveyed hundreds of tech leaders for a 2017 paper. 

“There’s been prominent people, both in the venture capital community and the founder community, that have kind of had a right-wing turn since around 2020,” Malhotra told The Hill. 

“But we don’t know if this is representative of the broader group of people, or it’s just a small, prominent group of people that may or may not reflect kind of a canary in the coal mine,” he added. 

The Biden administration’s aggressive regulation of big tech companies, as well as its hesitant approach toward crypto, may be contributing to this shift among some tech leaders, Malhotra said.

The Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission have brought massive antitrust lawsuits against Google, Amazon and Apple under Biden. However, the antitrust push started under Trump, who also brought cases against Google and Meta.

Biden has also angered some in the tech world with his administration’s approach toward crypto regulation.

The president recently vetoed a congressional resolution seeking to overturn a Securities and Exchange Commission rule that was opposed by the crypto industry.

He also declined to support the Financial Innovation and Technology for the 21st Century Act, which sought to redefine the classification of digital assets, although Biden did not explicitly say he would veto the legislation.

“There has always been a vibe in Silicon Valley — Let us create, let us produce and leave us alone. We don’t believe that we should answer, or we don’t believe that we need to answer to some of the more problematic consequences of our tech creations,” Democratic strategist Rodell Mollineau told The Hill.

“In Trump, I think they see someone who’s just going to leave them alone, let them do what they will, let them continue to create without any interference,” he said. 

Despite Trump’s antitrust efforts in his first term, Mollineau noted that the former president has recently sought to lure corporate leaders back to his camp with promises of lighter regulation and tax cuts.

Republican lawmakers are preparing a legislative sprint to extend key provisions of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, Trump’s landmark tax-cut bill, which expire at the end of 2025.

A full GOP sweep of the White House and Congress would give Republicans the chance to renew several aspects of the law heavily supported by big business and the financial sector, including a 21-percent corporate tax rate.

The TCJA also lowered personal income taxes across the board, meaning tax bills for high earners could shoot up if Democrats stave off a red wave.

“That’s pretty much his pitch to corporate America, so it wouldn’t surprise me if this is his pitch to Silicon Valley, ‘Hey, support me and I’m just going to leave you alone,’” Mollineau said. 

While some money in Silicon Valley may have shifted toward Trump, a substantial amount of money is “still betting on Biden,” he added.

Venture capitalists Vinod Khosla and Michael Moritz, Microsoft vice chair and President Brad Smith, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, former Meta Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer are among those in Silicon Valley supporting the president’s bid for reelection, according to the Post and Yahoo Finance. 

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