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Tech Leaders Pivot to Trump After Donating Heavily to Clinton

Executives from the biggest tech firms in the U.S. met with President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower in New York Wednesday, where Trump appeared to extend an olive branch to the industry he criticized throughout the campaign season, and in reaction donated heavily to his opponent Hillary Clinton.

Apple CEO Tim Cook, Google parent company Alphabet’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, who were all vocal Clinton supporters, were among those invited to huddle with Trump, Vice President-elect Mike Pence, members of the Trump family and venture capitalist and Facebook board member Peter Thiel, the early and seemingly only support Trump received from Silicon Valley.

They represented three of the top four Silicon Valley firms to donate pennies on the dollars to Trump versus Clinton, with Alphabet donating $1,315,545 to Clinton and $21,924 to Trump, Apple $572,350 to Clinton and $4,366 to Trump, and Facebook $418,986 to Clinton and $3,965 to Trump, according to Open Secrets. The fourth was Microsoft with $710,334 to the former secretary of state and $31,372 to the president elect. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella was also in attendance at the meeting with Trump.

Trump thanked executives for attending and inquired rhetorically whether they were enjoying the “Trump bounce” in the stock market, referring to the Dow’s record-breaking approach to 20,000 points following his election win and despite the Federal Reserve’s announcement to raise interest rates .25 percent.

“Everyone is this room has to like me at least a little bit,” Trump said in a meeting room video broadcast by CNN. “I’m here to help you folks do well. You’re doing well right now.”

Others at the meeting included Alphabet CEO Larry Page, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos whose company gave $330,895 to Clinton and $3,112 to Trump, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty with $319,714 to Clinton and $28,225 to Trump, Oracle co-CEO Safra Catz with $178,444 to Clinton and $12,880 to Trump, Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins with $157,427 to Clinton and $13,662 to Trump, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich with $146,444 to Clinton and $11,862 to Trump and SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, whose electric car manufacturer gave $19,689 to Clinton and $250 to Trump. Executives from Uber and Airbnb were invited but unable to attend.

Combined, the companies with representatives in attendance gave $131,618 to the Republican president elect and $4,169,828 to his Democratic opponent.

Trump said his door was open to hear suggestions from executives, and that his administration would have their backs in improving trade and generally trying to help them succeed.

“You call my people, you call me — it doesn’t make any difference — we have no formal chain of command around here,” Trump said.

The business mogul’s tone marked, at least on the surface, a departure from the barbs he lobbed at Silicon Valley on the campaign trail, where he slammed Apple for refusing to break its own default encryption to aid an FBI terrorist investigation, criticized Amazon for avoiding state taxes, vowed to oppose H-1B visas for skilled workers supported by Facebook and Microsoft, and moved to appoint staunch opponents to net neutrality regulations supported by much of the valley, including Google, which is unlikely to enjoy the same access it had to the White House during the Obama administration.

Particularly on the issue of H-1B visas, Trump initially expressed skepticism with the program for the potential that it displaces U.S. workers. But Trump softened his tone as the campaign continued, reversing himself on several occasions. He said during a debate on March 3, “I’m changing. We need highly skilled people in this country, and if we can’t do it, we’ll get them in. But, and we do need in Silicon Valley, we absolutely have to have.”

A number of tech companies have urged the expansion of the program because there are not enough American workers to fill some highly-skilled positions. Trump’s softening tone on the issue and his outreach to Silicon Valley may be indicators the program is unlikely to be scaled back as Trump stated early in the campaign.

“We want you to keep going with the incredible innovation. There’s nobody like you in the world. There’s nobody like the people in this room,” Trump said. “And anything we can do to help this go long. We’re going to be there for you.”

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey notably was not invited, reportedly for refusing the implement a “crooked Hillary” emoji for the Trump campaign during election season, according to a Hill report.

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How Google Tried to Tip the Scales for Clinton

The Obama administration’s revolving door with Google has been anything but subtle over the last eight years, and a new report from a government watchdog out this week shows the Silicon Valley giant hoped to extend that relationship to what many expected would be a Hillary Clinton presidency.

According to Campaign for Accountability, a non-profit government watchdog, that door was already growing in scope while Clinton headed the State Department under Obama. At least 57 people shared affiliations with Clinton and Google or related entities at the State Department, the Clinton Foundation and her presidential campaign.

Those include Clinton campaign Chief Technology Officer Stephanie Hannon, Chief Product Officer Osi Imeokparia, Deputy CTO Derek Parham and Director of Digital Advertising Jason Rosenbaum, all of whom hailed from Google before joining the campaign.

Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Alphabet (the redubbed parent company of Google) who developed custom election monitoring software for the 2012 Obama campaign helped Clinton in a similar fashion. Schmidt funded Civis Analytics and The Groundwork, two data analytics and poll tracking firms that worked on her campaign.

Clinton and her super PAC Priorities USA spent almost $1.5 million on services from those companies.

“Had she won the election, Clinton would have been significantly indebted to Google and Schmidt, whom she has referred to as her ‘longtime friend,'” the report reads. “For comparison, Schmidt’s future team at Civis Analytics was credited with helping produce his five million vote margin of victory during Obama’s 2012 election, and Schmidt subsequently enjoyed extensive access at the Obama White House.”

Personal emails hacked from campaign manager John Podesta show Schmidt personally met with Podesta and Clinton State Department aide Cheryl Mills in 2014, before the campaign was officially announced, and three months later Groundwork set up shop near Clinton headquarters in New York.

“[H]e’s ready to fund, advise, recruit talent, etc,” Podesta wrote after meeting with Schmidt in Washington, D.C. in 2014. Schmidt would continue to meet consistently with Clinton advisers to advise its voter targeting effort and data management.

“Clearly wants to be head outside advisor,” Podesta added before suggesting a meeting between Schmidt and Clinton campaign strategist Robby Mook.

As with most of the tech industry, Google donated heavily to Clinton over Trump, but Google notably became Clinton’s largest corporate contributor, according to the report, with at least six high-ranking executives and other employees contributing more than $1.3 million to her campaign coffers. The next highest corporate contributor was Microsoft with over $700,000 and Apple, which had its own close relationship with Clinton advisers per more Podesta emails, putting up more than $500,000, according to

“Had Clinton won the election, Google would have been able to capitalize on a close working relationship stretching back to her tenure as U.S. Secretary of State,” report authors wrote. “State Department officials traveled to Silicon Valley for meetings at Google’s headquarters attended by Schmidt, where they brainstormed how new technologies could be used to address diplomatic, development, and security concerns.”

Those efforts include the former secretary of state’s Internet Freedom agenda announced amid Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East in 2010. Clinton advocated international open internet norms and encouraged the adoption of technologies like encryption and social media to protect privacy and advocate for change in repressed regimes like Egypt and Syria.

The door between the two has spun in both directions since Clinton’s tenure heading the State Department, where at least 19 officials have joined Google in recent years including Jared Cohen, a member of Clinton’s policy planning staff. Cohen and Schmidt built their own “foreign policy think-tank,” later dubbed Jigsaw, “that has carried out a wide range of missions, some in coordination with the State Department.” Cohen himself traveled to areas of conflict while working for Google “raising suspicions that he was acting as an unofficial backchannel for the State Department.”

“Had Clinton won the election, Google would have benefitted in current and new ventures from its extensive ties to her presidential campaign, her foundation, and the Clinton State Department,” the report reads. “Several of those ventures rely on government funding or would be subject to regulatory scrutiny.”

Clinton appointees at the Federal Communications Commission (charged with defending net neutrality and currently weighing rules that would let Google enter the set-top box market), at the Federal Trade Commission (looking at rules for internet of things devices, artificial intelligence and where the company has run into data privacy and anti-trust issues), and at the Department of Transportation (where standards will be set for the company’s self-driving cars), would all have likely benefitted Alphabet’s various business ventures.

“Beyond leaving its mark with Hillary Clinton, Google has proved highly adept during the past eight years at securing favorable decisions from federal agencies like the Federal Communications Commission, Federal Trade Commission, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,” Campaign for Accountability said.

Though Alphabet bet heavily on Clinton, as did most in the valley, the incoming Trump administration is showing early signs the search giant may not be shut out in the cold. The Trump transition team has welcomed some Google allies to advise its efforts.

“Having failed to back the winning presidential candidate,” Campaign for Accountability explains, “Google is now seeking to soften its opposition to Trump. Schmidt congratulated Trump following his win, calling it an ‘amazing story.’ He also praised Trump-backer Peter Thiel, calling himself a fan of the Silicon Valley investor and entrepreneur.”

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