Silicon Valley elite warms to Donald Trump

Some of Silicon Valley’s most prominent venture capitalists will host a fundraiser for Donald Trump next month as Republicans make inroads within the overwhelmingly Democratic tech donor community.

David Sacks and fellow tech investor Chamath Palihapitiya, co-hosts of the popular All-In podcast, are hosting a San Francisco fundraiser for Trump on June 6, according to an invitation obtained by the Financial Times. Sacks has said he hopes to feature the presidential candidate on his show.

The event — which comes ahead of another fundraiser by Palmer Luckey, founder of defence group Anduril and Oculus VR, in Newport Beach, California — is a sign of how leaders in elite tech circles are becoming increasingly critical of President Joe Biden, with some considering switching allegiance to Trump. 

Tickets for the All-In fundraiser cost at least $50,000 a head, although extra VIP perks such as “preferred seating” for dinner and a photo with the ex-president can be bought for a $300,000 donation.

David Sacks
David Sacks © David Buchan/Variety/Penske Media/Getty Images
Chamath Palihapitiya
Chamath Palihapitiya © Etienne Laurent/AFP/Getty Images

Jacob Helberg, a senior Palantir executive who gave hundreds of thousands to Biden’s 2020 campaign, recently announced a $1mn donation to the Trump campaign. He said the former president’s border policies and his pro-Israel and anti-China stance were behind his switch from the Democratic party.

“When people like Palmer [Luckey], myself or David Sacks are openly out in support of Trump, we’re not facing the same kinds of reactions and backlash that we would have eight years ago,” said Helberg.

The change marks a cultural shift within the valley — long considered a liberal bastion — that is driven by concern over issues such as free speech, tech regulation and taxes.

There is now an effort by pro-Trump tech leaders to convince Elon Musk, the owner of X, Tesla and SpaceX, to endorse the former president.

Musk previously supported Biden, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. But over the past year, he has taken to X to urge the US Supreme Court to overturn Trump’s civil fraud fine, defend his incendiary rhetoric and compliment his sense of humour, while accusing the media of being biased towards Biden.

“The more unfair the attacks on Trump seem to the public, the higher he will rise in the polls,” Musk wrote last week to his 185mn followers on X. 

The billionaire’s journey from Democrat supporter to libertarian provocateur has played out on the social media platform. He increasingly rejects what he dubs “woke politics” and the mainstream media, while lambasting the alleged censorship of conservatives and flirting with far-right conspiracies — talking points that often mirror Trump’s.

He also labelled the former president’s “hush money” trial “a corruption of the law” in a post that Trump copied and posted on Truth Social, his own social media platform.

Musk has been equally outspoken in his criticism of Biden’s immigration policies, his position on transgender care and his mental acuity. “Biden obviously barely knows what’s going on. He is just a tragic front for a far left political machine,” he wrote on X last month. 

Many in the billionaire’s inner circle see Trump as a victim and consider the Biden administration to be overly hostile to Musk — and fear their own interests could be at risk.

“If they’re able to unfairly target [Musk], they can unfairly target the rest of us next,” said one pro-Trump tech venture capitalist, who is close to Musk. “That’s how the third world works. It’s not how America is supposed to work.”

But Musk has not endorsed or donated to either candidate.

“The big question is will Elon Musk write a cheque or not?” said Charles Myers, longtime Democratic donor and fundraiser.

Musk and Sacks did not respond to requests for comment but Trevor Traina, former US ambassador to Austria during the Trump administration, said: “I think we can admit that he essentially already has [endorsed Trump].”

Steve Bannon, Elon Musk and Donald Trump
Elon Musk, centre, talks with Donald Trump as Steve Bannon, left, looks on © Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

There are still central Silicon Valley figures who support Biden, such as venture capitalist Vinod Khosla and Palantir chief executive Alex Karp, who donated more than $360,000 to the Biden campaign late last year.

“Joe has done a reasonably great job and Trump is going to destroy democracy,” Khosla told the Financial Times. “The economy is so much better than what the press and the perception makes it out to be. So I think the problem has been communications.”

But Biden’s proposal to almost double capital gains tax rates for the richest Americans, and the aggressive crackdown on acquisitions by Lina Khan, his Federal Trade Commission chair, have spooked many tech figures.

“If you are a start-up investor or a tech founder, it’s really hard to have an acquisition because the antitrust policy of the current administration is so restrictive,” said Helberg.

In April, Musk held an anti-Biden dinner in Hollywood alongside Sacks, with a guest list that included billionaire entrepreneur Peter Thiel, according to a report that first appeared in Puck News. Thiel does not plan to donate to or endorse any candidate, said one person familiar with his thinking. 

Berin Szóka, president of non-profit think-tank TechFreedom, said tech founders such as Musk might be seeking “leverage” in battles over how to regulate online speech and content moderation by aligning themselves with Trump.

“How will a Trump administration engage in warfare in service of their grievances and the culture war?” he said. “There are some very significant donors who care about this.”

Others suggest there are business incentives for the billionaire and other tech leaders to back Trump over Biden — who Musk has previously accused of being a “naysayer” against Tesla. 

Myers said he believed Musk was “scared” that Trump was going to get rid of electric vehicle subsidies, directly hurting Tesla, and the Inflation Reduction Act. “That’s one of the reasons I’m convinced Elon is rubbing shoulders with Trump.”

Traina, the former Trump ambassador, said big donors were watching the polls and making bets on how they could position themselves for a future White House.

“We could talk about trends like people are putting inflation and border security ahead of issues like abortion, but I think the reality is more that it’s increasingly obvious Trump is going to win and people want to position themselves favourably for the next four years,” he said.

Szóka agrees the Trump supporters are jockeying for favour as well as hedging their bets in what could be a very close race.

“This is all about palace intrigue and palace politics and who has the ear of the emperor,” he said. 


This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.