The subsequent political battle of some donors in Silicon Valley? Attempting to oust the governor of California.
Some big Silicon Valley donors are mobilizing behind a plan to recall California Governor Gavin Newsom and using their money to turn a quixotic attempt into an impending political threat to Newsom's career.
In the past few weeks, senior tech leaders have begun to unfold their political powers by funding Rescue California, a group that funded efforts to collect enough signatures to force a recall vote later this year. The stature of Newsom, once San Francisco mayor and tech industry favorite, has fallen in the eyes of some as the adoption of vaccines in California has lagged the rest of the nation. And the recall increasingly seems to at least qualify for the vote, although Newsom's opponents are not yet known.
Of course, Newsom remains popular with many technology leaders. But now some people in the same industry are proving to be a political thorn in the side – some supporters even turn against him.
Some of the money comes from conservative tech leaders: Famed tech investor Doug Leone, one of Trump's few big supporters in Silicon Valley during his presidency, and his wife donated about $ 100,000 to the recall late last month, according to state records. Another $ 100,000 came from venture capitalist Dixon Doll, a longtime GOP donor, and his wife.
Other funds came from Newsom's previous supporters: David Sacks, a noted tech executive, donated about $ 60,000 when Newsom first ran for governor a few years ago. Now he's backing a recall and his wife, Jacqueline, contributed $ 25,000 to the recall last week. Chamath Palihapitiya, a former Facebook executive and a key Democratic donor, has publicly stated that he supports the effort, even though the billionaire has not yet made a donation.
However, the other technology leaders are among the biggest funders for the recall effort, which has raised about $ 1.5 million to date. All of this could require real money in a recall campaign that would likely cost more than $ 100 million in total.
"Certainly they wouldn't be upset if they bought their way from Silicon Valley, but I don't know if I would say their involvement in this first qualifying phase would be 'critical'," said Rob Pyers, director of research for California Target Book. analyzed the money in California politics. "Once it gets to that point, Silicon Valley becomes an important player because of its deep pockets."
The moves come because some tech industry leaders – especially those with conservative leanings – are rebelling against a tax system, Covid-related policies, and broader culture that they consider repressive. Elon Musk, the billionaire founder of Tesla, has been harshly criticizing California's policies regarding the coronavirus and the state's handling of the tech industry, so he moved to Texas last year. Several other tech leaders have come to Miami where executives have tried to capitalize on disgust and recreate the magic of Silicon Valley.
Anne Dunsmore, a Republican fundraiser leading the recall, said this is exactly the type of Silicon Valley donor she is tracking to fund her efforts.
“It's a cautious industry. And historically it has been very democratic,” she said. “Now when you talk about lost business in the state of California and you face the idea that you might have to move out and relocate your entire business, see people change their position. "
Dunsmore said the fundraiser in Silicon Valley consists mostly of "large donors reaching out to other large donors".
A Newsom recall seemed like a breeze until recently. California has been one of the most aggressive states in trying to contain the spread of the coronavirus and implemented one of the country's first stay-at-home contracts. Some business leaders resisted this move, but experts say it contributed to California's relative success in containing the pandemic.
However, the logic of this compromise has been put to the test in recent months by the widespread spread of the disease in the state, particularly in the Los Angeles area. California also has one of the worst records in the country when it comes to vaccine distribution, at a time when experts say too many states are moving too slowly. Newsom's credibility was also marred by a visit to an exclusive Napa Valley restaurant in November that undermined its own rhetoric about staying home.
"We have now created an inhospitable culture for innovation," Palihapitiya said on his podcast last week. “I think he should be called back. He's rubbish. "
The real test will be whether these leaders dig deep rather than just using their platforms to express themselves. Palihapitiya, the former Facebook executive, tweeted a link on the Rescue California committee but didn't return requests for comment on whether he intended to pledge money for the effort. Dunsmore said she hadn't heard from Palihapitiya – or even from him, despite being a major Democratic donor, which speaks in favor of the recall's rise. Palihapitiya contributed more than $ 1 million to support the Democrats during the 2020 campaign.
Newsom became known alongside many of today's technology leaders, and its political base remains San Francisco. Major donors to his latest campaign included former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, billionaire philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs, and even Trump's ally and venture capitalist Peter Thiel.
Josh Felser, a tech investor who has been close to Newsom since meeting the then-lieutenant governor at a gym and becoming a training partner, argued that Newsom is pretty sympathetic with the tech industry, citing his record on subjects like gay Marriage. Gun Control and Climate Change.
"He stands up for the things he believes in, even if they are unpopular. In technology, we all see ourselves as pioneers. And I think that was the governor," said Felser, who is part of a pandemic advisory group for Newsom is made up of business executives. "There's a strong libertarian streak in technology. This group – a minority of technicians – is rich and active. And then there are the majority of the technicians – and they're not funding this recall and looking for ways to help. "
Some technology leaders – even those who are critical of Newsom – told Recode that they have concerns that Newsom's replacement may be inferior. Dunsmore said this is a common feature in her conversation with potential Democratic supporters.
If organizers collect the required 1.5 million signatures by mid-March, which observers believe is likely, the recall would be triggered, with the vote coming sometime in late 2021 or early 2022. A number of prominent California Republicans, including former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, have expressed an interest in challenging Newsom.
While that usually sounds like a long shot in the heavily Democratic state, there is a precedent: the 2003 recall of Democratic Governor Gray Davis and the subsequent election of Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger.
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