Source Code: Your daily look at what matters in tech.

source-codesource codeauthorIssie LapowskyNoneWant your finger on the pulse of everything that's happening in tech? Sign up to get David Pierce's daily newsletter.64fd3cbe9f
×

Get access to Protocol

Your information will be used in accordance with our Privacy Policy

I’m already a subscriber
Protocol | Policy

Big Tech is cutting off political contributions. Here are the biggest losers.

Election objectors like McCarthy, Nunes, Jordan and Stefanik all took tech PAC money last year. But they're not the only ones losing out.

Big Tech is cutting off political contributions. Here are the biggest losers.

Some of tech's biggest critics in Congress have taken money from tech PACs. Now, they're getting cut off.

Photo: Darren Halstead/Unsplash

One day after Twitter banned President Trump and Google and Apple kicked the far-right social network Parler out of their app stores, New York Rep. Elise Stefanik dashed off a tweet: "If you think the American people will quietly accept #BigTechTyranny, You. Are. Wrong."

One detail Stefanik left out: She took $30,000 from corporate PACs linked to Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Intel in the last year alone, according to campaign finance records. During her tenure in Congress, she's raised nearly twice that much from those companies. And now, she's getting cut off.

Stefanik and the 146 other Republicans who voted against certifying election results last week — including fellow tech critics House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Reps. Devin Nunes and Jim Jordan — are among the many members of Congress who will soon lose financial backing from top tech PACs that are either scaling back or completely halting their corporate PACs' campaign contributions, following last week's siege on the Capitol.

For all of their efforts to secure the election, tech giants ended up contributing an awful lot to members of Congress who tried to overturn the election anyway. Of the more than $7 million that Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Intel's PACs spent in the 2020 election cycle, Protocol found that around $700,000 of it went to members who voted to contest the results. That includes $35,000 that went to McCarthy, $14,000 that went to Jordan and $10,000 that went to Nunes, all of whom have lashed out at tech companies over alleged censorship. Now, those same companies are putting a hold on that spending while they reevaluate.

And yet, as many have pointed out, some efforts to pull back from political donations may wind up hurting those members who voted to certify the election results more than those who didn't. Facebook, Google and Microsoft have announced that they will be cutting off all PAC contributions for the foreseeable future, a decision that earned the companies criticism for punishing both sides of the aisle for a Republican-driven insurrection.

The numbers bear that out. While Microsoft spent $1.87 million on all PAC donations during the 2020 election cycle, only $167,000 of that went to members who objected to the election results. Google made some $1.86 million in contributions last year, but just $174,000 went to objectors, including McCarthy, Nunes, Stefanik and Jordan. Facebook spent less than either of those companies, with just $523,000 in overall PAC contributions in 2020, but just over $33,000 of that funded objectors. These three companies alone, in other words, could wind up withholding millions of dollars in support from members of Congress who voted to uphold the results, just to avoid singling out the ones who didn't.

Amazon, Airbnb and Intel, for their part, have said they will only be stopping contributions to members who objected to certification, leaving the vast majority of their contributions intact for now.

The companies set different timelines for themselves to reconsider their political giving. Facebook's pause will last "for at least the current quarter." Google said its PAC is on hiatus while "we review and reassess its policies following last week's deeply troubling events." Amazon said it will discuss the decision with affected members and "evaluate their responses as we consider future PAC contributions."

It's possible that any of these companies could return to business as usual in the second quarter when the memory of the riot isn't quite so fresh. But if they stick to their commitments in the long run, these companies could leave a significant hole in some Congressional coffers.

Here's a look at where top tech companies spent their money on Capitol Hill before the last election, who stands to lose their support for trying to overturn the results of that election and who's getting caught in the crossfire.

Methodology: This data comes from OpenSecrets. These figures apply only to PAC contributions, not lobbying spending or contributions made by individuals. Twitter and Apple don't have corporate PACs, so they're not reflected here. Airbnb also pledged to withhold contributions to election objectors, but in 2020, the company spent only about $5,000 on these members, so it was excluded from our list.

Amazon

Action taken: Suspended contributions to any member of Congress who voted to override the election results

Total PAC contributions in 2020 cycle: more than $1.94 million

Total PAC contributions to federal candidates in 2020 cycle: more than $1.26 million

Total PAC contributions to members who objected to election results in 2020: $238,500

Objectors who raised the most:

Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), $10,000
Sam Graves (R-MO), $10,000
Richard Hudson (R-NC), $10,000
Elise Stefanik (R-NY), $10,000
Morgan Griffith (R-VA), $10,000

Microsoft

Action taken: Will not make any political donations until after it "assesses the implications" of the riot

Total PAC contributions in 2020 cycle: more than $1.87 million

Total PAC contributions to federal candidates in 2020 cycle: more than $820,000

Total PAC contributions to members who objected to election results in 2020: $167,000

Objectors who raised the most:

Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), $10,000
Steve Scalise (R-LA), $10,000

Non-objectors who raised the most:

Chris Coons (D-DE), $10,000
Steven Daines (R-MT), $10,000
Lindsey Graham (R-SC), $10,000
Mitch McConnell (R-KY), $10,000
Gary Peters (D-MI), $10,000
Ben Sasse (R-NE), $10,000
Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), $10,000
Tina Smith (D-MN), $10,000
Dan Sullivan (R-AK), $10,000
Thom Tillis (R-NC), $10,000
Kelly Armstrong (R-ND), $10,000
Kevin Brady (R-TX), $10,000
James Clyburn (D-SC), $10,000
Steny Hoyer (D-MD), $10,000
Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ), $10,000
Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), $10,000
Adam Smith (D-WA), $10,000

Google

Action taken: Froze all political contributions

Total PAC contributions in 2020 cycle: more than $1.86 million

Total PAC contributions to federal candidates in 2020 cycle: $1.05 million

Total PAC contributions to members who objected to election results in 2020: $174,000

Objectors who raised the most:

Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), $10,000
Steve Scalise, (R-LA) $10,000
Elise Stefanik (R-NY), $10,000
Jim Jordan (R-OH), $10,000
Jeff Duncan (R-SC), $10,000
Steve Chabot (R-OH), $10,000

Non-objectors who raised the most:

Susan Collins (R-ME), $10,000
Chris Coons (D-DE), $10,000
Joni Ernst (R-IA), $10,000
Martha McSally (R-AZ), $10,000
Kevin Brady (R-TX), $10,000
John Curtis (R-UT), $10,000
Rodney Davis (R-IL), $10,000
Tom Emmer (R-MN), $10,000
Anna Eshoo (D-CA), $10,000
Drew Ferguson (R-GA), $10,000
Steny Hoyer (D-MD), $10,000
Darin LaHood (R-IL), $10,000
Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), $10,000
Michael McCaul (R-TX), $10,000
Patrick McHenry (R-NC), $10,000
Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ), $10,000
Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), $10,000
Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), $10,000

Intel

Action taken: Will not contribute to members of Congress who voted against certification of the Electoral College results

Total PAC contributions in 2020 cycle: more than $977,000

Total PAC contributions to federal candidates in 2020 cycle: more than $560,000

Total PAC contributions to members who objected to election results in 2020: $100,500

Objectors who raised the most:

Andy Biggs (R-AZ), $10,000
Roger Williams (R-TX), $10,000

Facebook

Action taken: Pausing all PAC contributions for at least the current quarter

Total PAC contributions in 2020 cycle: more than $523,000

Total PAC contributions to federal candidates in 2020 cycle: more than $303,000

Total PAC contributions to members who objected to election results in 2020: $33,500

Objectors who raised the most:

Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), $5,000
Steve Scalise (R-LA), $5,000
Michael Burgess (R-TX), $5,000

Non-objectors who raised the most:

Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), $10,000
Richard E. Neal (D-MA), $10,000
Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ), $10,000
Adam Schiff (D-CA), $10,000

Disclosure: Reporter Issie Lapowsky is married to an Amazon employee.

Does Elon Musk make Tesla tech?

Between the massive valuation and the self-driving software, Tesla isn't hard to sell as a tech company. But does that mean that, in 10 years, every car will be tech?

You know what's not tech and is a car company? Volkswagen.

Image: Tesla/Protocol

From disagreements about what "Autopilot" should mean and SolarCity lawsuits to space colonization and Boring Company tunnels, extremely online Tesla CEO Elon Musk and his company stay firmly in the news, giving us all plenty of opportunities to consider whether the company that made electric cars cool counts as tech.

The massive valuation definitely screams tech, as does the company's investment in self-driving software and battery development. But at the end of the day, this might not be enough to convince skeptics that Tesla is anything other than a car company that uses tech. It also raises questions about the role that timeliness plays in calling something tech. In a potential future where EVs are the norm and many run on Tesla's own software — which is well within the realm of possibility — will Tesla lose its claim to a tech pedigree?

Keep Reading Show less
Becca Evans
Becca Evans is a copy editor and producer at Protocol. Previously she edited Carrie Ann Conversations, a wellness and lifestyle publication founded by Carrie Ann Inaba. She's also written for STYLECASTER. Becca lives in Los Angeles.

As President of Alibaba Group, I am often asked, "What is Alibaba doing in the U.S.?"

In fact, most people are not aware we have a business in the U.S. because we are not a U.S. consumer-facing service that people use every day – nor do we want to be. Our consumers – nearly 900 million of them – are located in China.

Keep Reading Show less
J. Michael Evans
Michael Evans leads and executes Alibaba Group's international strategy for globalizing the company and expanding its businesses outside of China.
Protocol | Workplace

Apple isn’t the only tech company spooked by the delta variant

Spooked by rising cases of COVID-19, many tech companies delay their office reopening.

Apple and at least two other Silicon Valley companies have decided to delay their reopenings in response to rising COVID-19 case counts.

Photo: Luis Alvarez via Getty

Apple grabbed headlines this week when it told employees it would delay its office reopening until October or later. But the iPhone maker wasn't alone: At least two other Silicon Valley companies decided to delay their reopenings last week in response to rising COVID-19 case counts.

Both ServiceNow and Pure Storage opted to push back their September return-to-office dates last week, telling employees they can work remotely until at least the end of the year. Other companies may decide to exercise more caution given the current trends.

Keep Reading Show less
Allison Levitsky
Allison Levitsky is a reporter at Protocol covering workplace issues in tech. She previously covered big tech companies and the tech workforce for the Silicon Valley Business Journal. Allison grew up in the Bay Area and graduated from UC Berkeley.
Protocol | Workplace

Half of working parents have felt discriminated against during COVID

A new survey found that working parents at the VP level are more likely to say they've faced discrimination at work than their lower-level counterparts.

A new survey looks at discrimination faced by working parents during the pandemic.

Photo: d3sign/Getty Images

The toll COVID-19 has taken on working parents — particularly working moms — is, by now, well-documented. The impact for parents in low-wage jobs has been particularly devastating.

But a new survey, shared exclusively with Protocol, finds that among parents who kept their jobs through the pandemic, people who hold more senior positions are actually more likely to say they faced discrimination at work than their lower-level colleagues.

Keep Reading Show less
Issie Lapowsky

Issie Lapowsky ( @issielapowsky) is Protocol's chief correspondent, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. She also oversees Protocol's fellowship program. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University's Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing.

Protocol | Enterprise

Alphabet goes deep into industrial robotic software with Intrinsic

If it succeeds, the gambit could help support Google Cloud's lofty ambitions in the manufacturing sector.

Alphabet is aiming to make advanced robotic technology affordable to customers.

Photo: Getty Images

Alphabet launched a new division Friday called Intrinsic, which will focus on building software for industrial robots, per a blog post. The move plunges the tech giant deeper into a sector that's in the midst of a major wave of digitization.

The goal of Intrinsic is to "give industrial robots the ability to sense, learn, and automatically make adjustments as they're completing tasks, so they work in a wider range of settings and applications," CEO Wendy Tan-White wrote in the post.

Keep Reading Show less
Joe Williams

Joe Williams is a senior reporter at Protocol covering enterprise software, including industry giants like Salesforce, Microsoft, IBM and Oracle. He previously covered emerging technology for Business Insider. Joe can be reached at JWilliams@Protocol.com. To share information confidentially, he can also be contacted on a non-work device via Signal (+1-309-265-6120) or JPW53189@protonmail.com.

Latest Stories