Silicon Valley’s Democrats aren’t galvanized by Trump any more than Republicans are — if you look at their donation history
Bay Area donations to Democrats and liberal causes however still rose by $54 million compared to totals in 2014.
Democratic leaders claim that they have turned Silicon Valley into ground zero of the #Resistance, with a San Francisco base that is energized by the first two years of Donald Trump’s presidency.
But that’s not exactly backed up by campaign finance data, which shows that Democrats in the Bay Area aren’t disproportionately raking in more cash than are Republicans when comparing this midterm election cycle to the last.
People living in the San Francisco area have given $188 million to federal Democratic candidates, party groups and liberal super PACs during this cycle, according to data pulled for Recode by the Center for Responsive Politics. That’s a 41 percent increase from the $133 million they took in during the last midterm cycle in 2014.
But Republicans raised 49 percent more this cycle from the area than they did in 2014 — albeit from a smaller base amount. Corresponding Republican and conservative groups took in $26.4 million this cycle, versus $17.7 million in the cycle prior.
Another way to look at the numbers, though, is more favorable to the narrative of Democratic energy: In absolute terms, donations to the left from Silicon Valley residents rose by $54 million while right-leaning donations grew by only $8.7 million since the last midterm cycle in 2014. Overall, the absolute amount of donations to Democrats and liberal causes remains seven times that of Republicans and conservative groups.
CRP was able to parse Federal Election Commission data among Bay Area ZIP codes to see how political donations have changed from the last midterm cycle to this one. This includes donations to individual candidates, party committees as well as to outside spending groups. When the donations are to a group or PAC, CRP designated them as liberal or conservative based on their spending patterns.
Overall, Democratic and Republican donations from those area codes rose 43 percent to nearly $230 million so far this midterm cycle. CRP included all itemized donations — meaning over $200 — available up to 12 days before the election, when candidates and groups file a “pre-general report” with the FEC.
Political spending nationwide is projected to increase by about 35 percent between the 2014 and 2018 election cycles, according to CRP. So Silicon Valley donations are outpacing the national average.
The campaign finance landscape looked very different in midterm cycles before 2014 thanks to the landmark Supreme Court decision in 2010, Citizens United, and related cases, which paved the way for super PACs.
National Democrats have long looked to Silicon Valley as a fundraising base alongside other wealthy liberal areas like Hollywood and New York City. Republicans still do well in some of those areas, but they’ve also focused on reliably conservative cash cows like the Houston and Dallas metro areas.
Obviously, not all those people who live in the Bay Area work in tech. Tech employees, though, in general tend to be liberal; of employees at major tech companies who donated to candidates this election cycle, about 85 percent gave to Democrats. (Their tech company employers, however, are less partisan, at least as far as their PAC spending goes.)
And this cycle in particular has seen Democratic tech leaders in Silicon Valley talk a big game about how much they are energized.
“I and many others in the tech sector who are civically engaged are investing an enormous amount of resources and energy into efforts around the midterm elections in November,” prominent Silicon Valley investor Ron Conway told Recode in September.
Conway is part of a class of top investors and executives, from LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman to Y Combinator head Sam Altman, who are cutting high-dollar checks to Democrats. In the aftermath of the 2016 cycle though, several big Democratic givers have said that they are focusing more on tech-enabled political nonprofits — which aren’t required to disclose their fundraising, thus influencing the above totals — as opposed to traditional party groups.
Donations below $200 are not required to be individually identified and therefore can’t be included in this analysis. Individuals may give up to $2,700 to federal candidates, more than $100,000 to national party committee accounts, and unlimited amounts to super PACs.