The political donations made by staff at the world’s biggest tech firms have been revealed in data seen by Business Insider.
BI worked with GovPredict, the political data firm backed by prestigious Silicon Valley tech incubator Y Combinator, to uncover donations made by employees at the FAANG firms: Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google.
The data is drawn from campaign filings and covers a 14-year period. It only measures political contributions made by employees and doesn’t reflect company-level donations to candidates. Facebook, for example, donates to candidates at a company level through its own Political Action Committee (PAC.)
GovPredict found that workers at these tech giants have backed the Democrats to the tune of millions of dollars, while donations to the Republicans have been paltry in comparison.
In fact, more than 90% of the $40 million donated by big tech employees to political causes since 2004 has gone to the Democrats.
Staff at Google’s parent company Alphabet were collectively the biggest funders of Democratic candidates and causes. Employees donated $16.3 million to the party, which was nearly $10 million more than employees from the next biggest funder, Amazon.
Democrats had a near-monopoly on donations from staff at Netflix, accounting for 98% of worker contributions to political parties.
The findings come at a delicate time for Silicon Valley. US President Donald Trump and other prominent Republicans have criticized what they see as bias at powerful tech firms. Trump is also looking at anti-trust proceedings against Amazon, Facebook, and Google.
The president said in August that Google search results were “RIGGED” against him, while last month, he asked his Twitter followers to “check out how biased Facebook, Google and Twitter are in favor of the Democrats.”
Google, in particular, has been a lightning rod for anger. Trump has repeatedly targeted the company, as have Republicans, including House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai will appear before Congress for the first time next week, when he gives evidence to the House Judiciary Committee on December 11. He is expected to face tough questions about search results, potential antitrust issues, and Google’s plans to launch a censored search engine in China.
The biggest year of donations from Alphabet staffers to the Democrats came in 2016, when staff spent $6 million trying to keep Trump out of office. In fact, all of the tech firm employee donations hit a high in 2016, except Amazon, GovPredict found. Workers at Jeff Bezos’ company donated their peak of $3 million to liberal causes in 2012 when Barack Obama secured a second term.
Ari Ezra Waldman, director of the Innovation Center for Law and Technology at the New York Law School, said there is “zero” evidence to support the theory that Google is fixing search results against the Republicans — and donation patterns do not change that.
“What comes up on search results on Google, for example, is the product of Google’s highly complex and proprietary algorithm, which is sensitive to what other people click on, share, and so forth,” he said. “So, if critical articles about Donald Trump are coming up first, that just means that critical articles about Donald Trump are being shared more, clicked on more, and searched for more.”
Google, Apple, Facebook, and Netflix declined to comment. Amazon did not respond to requests for comment.
GovPredict analyzed Federal Election Commission filings, state and city campaign finance portals, and the Internal Revenue Service. It examined election contributions made by tech staff by tracking the various subsidiary names of their companies used in the filings.
GovPredict then categorized, as Democrat or Republican, the unique committees to which employees made donations. Most were labelled by the Federal Election Commission, while on others GovPredict had to make its own call.
Former Harvard graduate Emil Pitkin launched GovPredict at the Y Combinator demo day in 2015. The company is also said to have $120,000 in seed funding from Y Combinator, which has backed startups such as Airbnb, Reddit, and Stripe.