Silicon Valley billionaires duel over Trump, midterm elections

Supporters of US President Donald Trump take part within the Million MAGA March to protest the end result of the 2020 presidential election, in entrance of the US Capitol on December 12, 2020 in Washington, DC.

Olivier Douliery | AFP | Getty Images

Two Silicon Valley billionaires are holding dueling political fundraisers this week that showcase their chosen candidates on this fall’s midterm elections and underscore a rising rift throughout the enterprise neighborhood.

In one nook is LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, who has been rallying company executives to oust politicians who assist false claims by former President Donald Trump that the 2020 presidential election was rigged towards him.

On Thursday, Hoffman hosted a fundraiser in San Francisco with Twilio Chief Executive Jeff Lawson and enterprise capitalist Ron Conway, an early investor in Google and Paypal.

Tickets for that occasion, which featured an off-the-record dialog with former President Barack Obama, ranged from $36,500 to $250,000, in keeping with a duplicate of the invitation obtained by CNBC. Donations from the occasion will go towards the Democratic Grassroots Victory Fund, which funnels cash to state events.  

Hoffman’s political adviser Dmitri Mehlhorn mentioned that Hoffman is constructing a coalition throughout the enterprise neighborhood to tackle so-called MAGA Republicans.

The effort, dubbed Investing in US, consists of executives who’re apprehensive the MAGA motion might undermine future elections – and finally the rule of legislation that has allowed capitalism to thrive. MAGA, or Making America Great Again, has been Trump’s rallying cry since he launched his run for the White House in 2015.

“Their central mission is now anti-business,” mentioned Mehlhorn, referring to MAGA Republicans and criticism they’ve directed at corporations such Coke, Disney and Delta due to their social stances.

So are they going to come back for us? Yes, after all. And the query is, ‘Do we combat?” said Melhorn, who shepherds the coalition for Hoffman.

But coalition faces some formidable – and familiar – opponents.

PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel has also invested heavily in midterm election races, backing conservative Republicans endorsed by Trump.

CNBC reported that Thiel plans to hold a fundraiser Friday at his Los Angeles home for his former protege Blake Masters a Republican running to represent Arizona in the Senate. Tickets for that event are going for up to $11,600.

Thiel in July sent $1.5 million to the Saving Arizona super PAC. 

Earlier this month, while speaking at the National Conservatism conference in Miami, Thiel accused Google, Apple and Facebook of causing political dysfunction in the United States.

“All these huge corporations are form of screwed up,” he told the audience. “But it is the super-structure that is actually, actually deranged.” 

That message has struck a chord among conservatives.

At a congressional hearing earlier this month, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., dismissed the so-called ESG, or environmental, social and governance investment movement, as an attempt to “weaponize companies to  reshape society in a approach that voters would by no means endorse on the poll field.”

Last week, the Conservative Political Action Coalition sent a letter to House Republicans calling on them to reject meetings with businesses that have spoken out on issues such as election laws, abortion, and transgender rights.

“Woke CEOs turned their backs on conservative leaders after the final election,” the letter said. “Conservatives will take management led by activists and entrepreneurs who’re exhausted and offended by the unconventional left insurance policies pushed by these publicly traded corporations.”

But not all Republicans are on board with that approach.

Asked by CNBC whether he supports the pledge, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said he’s not closing any doors.

“I meet with everyone. How can you could have any dialogue on the best way to make a change?” McCarthy said.

“It doesn’t suggest whether or not I agree with someone or not, however I’ll meet with anyone within the course of.”

Even Thiel has suggested that Republicans may need to tone down their rhetoric in the long run.

During his Miami speech, Thiel said that the GOP does not seem to have the electoral momentum of the “Republican Revolution” led by Newt Gingrinch in 1994 or of the Tea Party movement in 2010.

And Thiel warned against simply railing against what he called “woke insanities.”

“My instinct is that the form of nihilistic negation might be not sufficient,” he said. “It could be sufficient to win within the midterms in ’22. It could be sufficient to win in ’24. But we need to have one thing that’s considerably extra of a program-positive imaginative and prescient – one thing like that to be credible.” 

Meanwhile, Investing in US getting involved in marquee matchups across the country. For example, Hoffman and Karla Jurvetson, a Silicon Valley philanthropist who was formerly married to an early investor in SpaceX and Tesla, hosted a virtual conversation last month with Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who is now the Democratic candidate for governor.

Shapiro is running against Doug Mastriano, a Republican who has been subpoenaed by the select House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot over his alleged involvement in compiling an alternate slate of electors to hand the presidential election to Trump. In an email to his fellow executives and donors, Hoffman vowed to match the first $500,000 in contributions to Shapiro raised at his event.

“Whether or not the United States has a democratic system based mostly on the peaceable switch of energy in 2024 will depend on whether or not Josh Shapiro can defeat Doug Mastriano for governor of Pennsylvania this fall,” the email read.

Mehlhorn told CNBC that the results of the midterms will reveal the strength of Trump’s allies within the Republican party and determine whether their crusade against corporate America can continue.

“We consider the enterprise neighborhood has an inadequate risk evaluation of the character of the risk,” he mentioned. 


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