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Is Tech Money Really Flowing to the GOP?
Scott Lucas | Photo: Courtesy Wikimedia Commons | May 13, 2014
The data says not so fast.
On Friday, the Silicon Valley Business Journal reported that, "more [of] Silicon Valley's tech contributions are moving into Republican coffers" thanks in part by a push by the Republican National Committee to tap into the libertarian strain in the South Bay's ideology—as well as a pragmatic bet on big wins for the Republicans in upcoming Congressional elections.
It's a fascinating story. But it was a curious one, since we found out about it at the same time an invite to a fundraiser that Yahoo's Marissa Mayer was throwing for the President and the DNC.
So which is it? Are tech companies tacking red, staying blue, or holding their breaths till they turn purple?
The Business Journal relies on campaign donation information from the Center for Responsive Politics. So, to double check, we ran the same numbers. And we found it's still a little early to call the Silicon Valley a natural habitat for elephants. We looked at the campaign donations of individuals and organizations associated with five major Bay Area tech companies—Google, Facebook, Twitter, Salesforce, and Yahoo—in 2012 and 2014. Here's what we found:
2014 Democratic Donations: $217,790 (62%)
2014 Republican Donations: $131,590 (38%)
2012 Democratic Donations: $274,107 (57%)
2012 Republican Donations: $206,301 (43%)
2014 Democratic Donations: $49,200 (58%)
2014 Republican Donations: $17,000 (42%)
2012 Democratic Donations: $122,989 (72%)
2012 Republican Donations: $23,757 (28%)
2014 Democratic Donations: $488,980 (74%)
2014 Republican Donations: $350,457 (26%)
2012 Democratic Donations: $1,715,685 (84%)
2012 Republican Donations: $650,617 (16%)
2014 Democratic Donations: $3,600 (100%)
2014 Republican Donations: $0 (0%)
2012 Democratic Donations: $25,712 (99%)
2012 Republican Donations: $250 (1%)
2014 Democratic Donations: $39300 (75%)
2014 Republican Donations: $12950 (25%)
2012 Democratic Donations: $121668 (71%)
2012 Republican Donations: $50103 (29%)
At least by looking at these companies for those years, it's clear that the Journal's contention that "traditionally blue Silicon Valley is turning a shade of purple" isn't quite born out the data. For the five companies we looked at, only Google and Salesforce increase the share of their donation to Republicans from 2012 to 2014. Google moved the most to the right thanks to a shift in its PAC dollars. By contrast, Facebook, Twitter, and Yahoo all moved slightly towards the Democrats. Overall, the total amount of dollars from all companies moved from 71% Democratic in 2012 to 61% to the party in 2014. That's a real drop, but most of that came from a shift in Google's PAC priorities. It's hard to infer from one large outlier that to a larger trend.
To be fair, there were two caveats: Donations from corporate PACs—which presumably direct their money in more pragmatic ways than individuals—were tilted slightly in favor of the GOP. That was outweighed, however, by the extreme individual tilt toward Democrats. But, to be fair, the kinds of Democrats who received the most donations included more moderate candidates like Cory Booker and Ro Khanna, along with those to more liberal politicians like Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi.
But in the main analysis, the takeaway was clear: Tech money, at least from several prominent companies, still tends to flow towards the left. Though if it turns out that the Google Barge is secretly a Dick Cheney hunting preserve, don't say we didn't warn you ahead of time.