Some of tech's biggest names donated millions of dollars ahead of the 2020 election, and most of it went to Democrats

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Some of tech's biggest names donated millions of dollars ahead of the 2020 election, and most of it went to Democrats
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings.Ernesto S. Ruscio/Getty Images / Netflix
  • Tech industry executives have donated millions during this election cycle, mostly to Democratic campaigns and PACs, CNBC found.
  • Asana CEO Dustin Moskovitz donated $24 million and was a major contributor to the pro-Biden super PAC Future Forward USA.
  • Other executives, like Netflix co-CEO Reed Hastings, donated more $5 million to Democratic PACs.
  • Silicon Valley has historically leaned left, and both CNBC and Protocol found few donations to Republicans: Venture capitalist Peter Thiel donated $2 million to a Republican Senate candidate, while an Apple executive contributed $150,000 to the Trump Victory Fund.
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Some of tech's biggest-name executives and other Silicon Valley power players donated millions of dollars to political campaigns ahead of the 2020 election.

The 2020 election is the most expensive in history, the result of a contentious presidential race and tight Senate and House races. It's meant major spending from millionaire and billionaire donors, including those who hail from the tech industry.

CNBC's Ari Levy calculated the total donations from tech leaders in the run-up to the 2020 election, citing data from the Center for Responsive Politics. The data showed that most spending went toward electing former Vice President Joe Biden and clinching Democratic control of the Senate.

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CNBC found that billionaire executives like Asana's Dustin Moskovitz, former Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, and Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson and his wife, Erica, were among some of the biggest contributors to pro-Biden super PAC Future Forward USA. During this election cycle, Moskovitz, Schmidt, and the Lawsons have spent about $24 million, $6 million, and $7 million, respectively.

Other major donors include Netflix co-CEO Reed Hastings, who — along with his wife, Patty Quillin — donated more than $5 million, mostly to a Democratic PAC supporting close Senate races, according to CNBC.

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CNBC tracked donations from other key players in the tech industry, including LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Qualcomm cofounder Irwin Jacobs, Y Combinator cofounder Jessica Livingston, and venture capitalists Vinod Khosla and Michael Moritz. All of them contributed to Democratic groups, CNBC found.

CNBC's findings mirror earlier data reported by Protocol, which tracked political spending by executives at tech companies like Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google. While the chief executives at those companies have shied away from making major political donations, other executives, like Microsoft President Brad Smith or Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, have donated to campaigns and PACs, most of them Democratic.

Protocol found that by mid-October, tech executives had donated more than $16 million during the current election cycle, though that amount most likely continued to grow in the weeks since.

In both Protocol's and CNBC's findings, very few key players in Silicon Valley contributed to Republican groups or campaigns. Protocol found that Douglas Vetter, vice president and associate general counsel at Apple, has donated to every Republican presidential candidate since 2004, including $150,000 to the Trump Victory Fund. And venture capitalist Peter Thiel gave $2 million to a PAC supporting a Senate candidate in Kansas who lost in the primary this year, according to CNBC.

Silicon Valley has long leaned Democratic, particularly when it comes to policies like climate change and immigration. CNBC found that 98% of employee donations went toward Democrats this election cycle, with companies like Netflix, Nvidia, and Adobe skewing the most liberal in terms of donations.

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In recent years, the tech industry has faced increased scrutiny from both sides, with Republicans accusing companies like Facebook and Twitter of censoring conservative voices and Democrats arguing that big tech companies like Amazon and Google should be broken up.

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