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Obama Taps Tech World for Cash Amid Privacy Debate
Obama Taps Tech World for Cash Amid Privacy Debate

By Jim Kuhnhenn
May 9, 2014 9:44AM

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The complicated relationship between the president and the high-tech industry is in the spotlight as President Obama attends high-profile fundraisers hosted by Silicon Valley execs. The role of the computer and Internet industry in politics has grown sharply over the past 10 years, increasing political contributions and expanding lobbying presence.
 



They come from different worlds -- the buttoned-down political culture of Washington and the entrepreneurial, socks-optional, let's-do-this-faster ethos of Silicon Valley.

But where those worlds overlap, that's where you find President Barack Obama and a wealthy segment of his Democratic donor base.

Obama was to attend two high-dollar Democratic Party fundraisers Thursday hosted by Silicon Valley executives, drawing attention to the complicated relationship between the president and the high-tech industry.

The revelations of National Security Agency data collection made public by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden have created an outcry from tech companies whose data have been gathered by the government. Obama has had to reassure Internet and tech executives that he is committed to protecting privacy.

Still, Obama remains a popular political figure in Silicon Valley, and the wealthy tech entrepreneurs appear willing to part with their money to support the party, especially if the president is making the pitch.

Obama was to attend a fundraiser hosted by Anne Wojcicki, a biotech entrepreneur who founded the personal-genomics startup 23andMe. The event is advertised as a Tech Roundtable, with 30 guests and tickets set at $32,400 -- a nearly $1 million potential haul for the Democratic National Committee.

He also was scheduled to be the featured guest at an event hosted by Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and Sam Altman, the 29-year-old president of Y Combinator, a venture capital firm that seeds tech startups.

"One of the dynamics that people on the East Coast and particularly in Washington, D.C., may not fully appreciate is that these folks are in a space that is growing," said California-based Democratic consultant Chris Lehane, a former aide to President Bill Clinton. "That adds an entire pool of fresh donor blood into the mix."

Obama was spending two nights in California. On Wednesday he was the star attraction at a fundraiser for House and Senate Democrats at the Los Angeles home of Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn. On Thursday he was also to attend two other Democratic events, including one at the La Jolla home of billionaire and former Qualcomm Chairman Irwin Jacobs.

The role of the computer and Internet industry in politics has grown sharply over the past 10 years, increasing political contributions and expanding its lobbying presence. Executives and employees in the industry favor Democrats, yet the political action committees set up by individual tech firms tend to split their money more evenly.

So far this election cycle, computer and Internet industry political action committees have contributed about $3.5 million, with about 54 percent of it going to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political money. Counting political action committees and individual donors, the industry has donated more than $14 million to federal candidates, giving $3 to Democrats for every $2 to Republicans, according to the center. (continued...)

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© 2014 Associated Press under contract with NewsEdge. All rights reserved.
 

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