Here’s how tech billionaires spent their money during the election cycle
The 2020 presidential election cycle is, mercifully, almost over. Well, assuming there aren't an endless slew of lawsuits and attempts to disenfranchise voters using arcane laws or a contested election or a civil war or a refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, but we aren't thinking about any of that right now, okay? When the dust settles on this thing, it will be the most expensive election in history, with more than $14 billion pouring into campaign coffers.
That's largely thanks to Big Tech and the industry's billionaires, who were not shy about handing out cash this year. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the tech sector gave more than $450 million to candidates and causes over the course of last year.
Chief among the donors were employees of Alphabet, the parent company of Google. They spent $21,177,686 in total, making it the 14th largest contributor to political campaigns during the 2020 election cycle with the vast majority coming from CEO Eric Schmidt. He gave about $6 million in total, including nearly $2 million to the Future Forward USA Super PAC that supports Joe Biden's candidacy. In total, $3,661,162 from Alphabet employees went directly to the Biden campaign. Just $68,748 went to Donald Trump, and a total of $651,771 went to Republican candidates and causes.
Microsoft was Big Tech's next biggest spender, forking out $17,001,468 during the 2020 election cycle. Once again, the donations were overwhelmingly given to Democratic candidates and PACs. While much of Alphabet's spending was focused on the presidential election, Microsoft seemed to put an emphasis on down-ballot races. The biggest recipient of Microsoft contributions was Senate Majority PAC, a group that states its primary mission is getting Democrats elected to the Senate. Nearly $2.5 million went to the PAC's pockets, and another $1.5 million went to the Democratic National Committee, which funds candidates across the country. Interestingly, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella did not appear in any FEC records for the 2020 election cycle.
Amazon employees gave $8,875,411 to political campaigns this year. While they gave more to Republican candidates than any other tech giant, that's not saying much as it was just over 17 percent of all contributions. A total of $164,174 went to Trump from Amazon employees, which is still dwarfed by the $1,737,402 that went to Joe Biden. Jeff Bezos, the company's CEO and world's richest man, largely sat the election out. He gave $15,000 in total, all to PACs that lobby for his companies. Those PACs give almost equally to Democrats and Republicans.
Facebook has been a central player in the 2020 election, and its employees are quite involved in throwing their support behind candidates. A total of $6,002,635 was spent by employees of the company, with Joe Biden being the top recipient. The candidate raked in $1,316,568 from Facebookers. Mark Zuckerberg himself largely refrained from giving money to individuals. Like Bezos, he gave $5,000 to a PAC set up for Facebook. Company COO Sheryl Sandberg was far more active, maxing out her individual contributions for a number of Democratic candidates across the country and putting $150,000 into the Women Vote Super PAC that aims to get Democratic women elected to office. A total of $216,451 from Facebook workers went to the Republican National Committee, and another $29,233 went directly to the Trump campaign.
Apple was the quietest of the Big Tech firms, with $5,685,157 of total contributions during the 2020 election cycle. Like the other companies before it, Apple's money overwhelmingly went to Democrats and Democratic causes. Just four percent of all contributions went to Republicans, including $63,650 to President Trump. Interestingly, though, according to FEC data, the most politically active person at Apple in terms of political donations gave big money to Republicans. Doug Vetter, who is listed as a Vice President, Associate General Counsel, and Assistant Secretary at Apple on LinkedIn, gave $150,000 to the Trump Victory Campaign and gave nearly another $150,000 to the Republican National Committee. Tim Cook apparently did not donate, per FEC data.
Some of the biggest spenders in tech actually came from outside of the biggest firms. According to CNBC, it was Dustin Moskovitz, a founder of Facebook and current CEO of Asana, who was one of the most generous donors. He gave nearly $24 million, largely to Democrats. Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson was also among the top spenders, giving nearly $7 million along with his wife, Erica. Once again, Biden and other Democratic groups were the biggest recipients. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and his wife, Patty Quillin, donated more than $5 million. Most of their money went to Senate Majority PAC.
Overall, about 98 percent of political contributions from the industry went to Democrats, according to CNBC. While that might make sense given the values that are typically associated with the companies of Silicon Valley, contributions are often a bit more even. The tech industry has been known to put money in the coffers of Republicans to curry favor with the party. That hasn't exactly worked with Trump, who has threatened at times to sue Twitter, shut down all of social media, and has targeted likely unenforceable laws aimed at tech firms. Add to that his administration's push to ban TikTok and bring anti-trust charges against Google and it appears the industry's biggest players are willing to take their chances on a Democratic presidency, even if it is the party that pushed to break up Big Tech.