As Silicon Valley grows in importance and influence, it's inevitable that technology companies become embroiled in politics, and at this time of year it's time to nail your colours to the mast and get behind your Presidential candidate of choice. Last week we looked at the tech companies throwing their support, and wallets, behind Obama as the US elections move ever closer to their conclusion. This week we look the challenger, Mitt Romney, and his relationship with the tech industry.
The Republican and Romney's relationship with big business is well-known - financial companies are by far the biggest donators to the Mitt machine. While that doesn't mean the tech companies have abandoned him, there's still a game of catch-up to be played. According to Buzzfeed, tech-backed funding accounts for around $27 million of the incumbent's $690 million raised so far. The New York Times puts the challenger's total at $2 million for the end of August. While that is a decent improvement on the $1.7 million John McCain managed to raise in 2008, there's still a big gap.
Where Obama's biggest donators features the likes of Microsoft, Google and IBM, who all together donated upwards of a million dollars, the only tech name on Romney's list is EMC, who have altogether donated $250,000 this year. While the numbers are significantly different, this can be seen as a victory for the Republicans; the same three tech companies donated over $2 million to BO in '08 while McCain managed to gain $200,00 from telecoms company AT&T and didn't have the backing of a Super PAC to gain extra donations.
On an individual level, some tech investors do seem to be backing Romney. According to the NY Times, Marc Andreessen, a prominent venture capitalist and Facebook investor has put in over $100,000 for Romney, both this year and for his failed 2007 bid, in stark contrast with a $4,600 contribution for BO in 2008. Other Facebook backers and tech investors have said they find Romney's business background appealing.
But concerns about Romney's potential impact on the tech sector and his refusal of net neutrality have no doubt had an impact on his standing within tech industry. Meanwhile the $6.9 billion to expand high-speed wireless Internet access included in Obama's stimulus plan, backing of net neutrality, and support of tech giantss such as Google's Eric Schmidt, all play into BO's favour. Overall, it seems Romney has suffered from not putting technology as a big focus of his campaign.
2012 has been the year of the Super PAC. Obama's Priorities USA Action boasts multi-million dollar donations from Chief executive of Dreamworks Animation Jeffrey Katzenberg as well as Irwin Jacobs, the founder of chipmaker Qualcomm. But Mitt's primary PAC, Restore Our Future, has also taken some big tech names into the fold. Former Dell President Kevin Rollins has donated over $350,000, while Meg Whitman, Chief of HP, has given $100,000 and software company Jenzabar Inc. has thrown in $250,000. These are some big numbers, but it's worth noting that all of these donors have links to Bain, the company where Romney made his millions.
Right now the race is too close to call. While the figures show that the tech industry ultimately stands by Obama, as they did in '08, whether their money will be as well spent is yet to be seen.
Read part I on tech companies funding Obama here.
By Dan Swinhoe, Editorial Assistant, IDG Connect
PREVIOUS ARTICLE«Dan Swinhoe (Asia) - Working with China
Phil Muncaster reports on China and beyond