President Trump speaks at the American Technology Council in the State Dining Room at the White House on June 19, 2017. Joining him, from left, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and CEO Jeff Bezos. (Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post)

Silicon Valley's political agenda – or battle back President Trump.

Two years ago, these tech leaders emerged as some of Trump's biggest critics, including issues such as immigration, climate change and gender equality. Personally, though, they've declined to write checks on congressional office seekers who might serve as a bulwark against the White House, federal records show.

Apple CEO Tim Cook so far has backed one Democratic lawmaker in California, after spending nearly $ 500,000 – almost entirely on Democrats, and a few Republicans – during the 2016 presidential race, according to data published by the Federal Election Commission. Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive of Facebook, and Larry Page and Sergey Brin, co-founders of Google parent's alphabet, have not written any checks to federal candidates, the records show. All three companies declined to comment on this story.

Some executives are active: Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, has nearly $ 300,000 in the 2018 election, FEC records reveal. Much of her support has gone to close 30 Democratic women running for office, along with a great PAC that encourages women to vote for political office and cast ballots on Election Day.

The more cautious approach stands in contrast to these tech companies' own workers. By October, employees in the Internet industry had given more than $ 13 million to federal candidates and to campaigns, about 85 percent of which has landed in the hands of Democrats, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

In Silicon Valley, though, politics is a precarious business. On one hand, rank-and-file tech workers in the liberal-leaning Bay Area increasingly demand that their bosses sound off on national issues. But tech executives must balance the needs of their employees with the reality that they must maintain positive relationships with Democrats and Republicans alike. Cook, for example, has criticized Trump yet struck at effective personal relationship with the president. The official corporate-political-action committees at other tech companies, including Amazon, Facebook and Google, as well as a general strategy for stave off unwanted regulation.

Bruce Mehlman, executive director. "Bruce Mehlman, executive director." Bruce Mehlman, executive vice president of global human resources CEO of the Technology Council, which represents the leaders of companies like IBM, Oracle and Qualcomm.

In 2018, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has not backed any federal candidates, though he's previously donated sparingly. Neither has Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. Microsoft and Twitter declined to comment. In contrast, Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote two checks – one for a Senate Democrats Senate, another for Senate Republicans – earlier this year.

At Amazon, chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos previously had donated little to political candidates – until August, when he made a $ 10 million donation to a super PAC that backs both Democratic and Republican office seekers who have served in the military. Bezos and his top deputies have backed other lawmakers this cycle, including Republican Sen. Cory Gardner (Colo.). Amazon's leaders held a contract for Gardner at Seattle headquarters. (Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

Gardner is a moderate republican who sits on a key committee in Congress that oversees tech issues including privacy, artificial intelligence, and the universe of smart gadgets and wearables called the "Internet of Things." Spokesmen for the senator and Amazon did not respond to requests for comment.

Since 2017, Elon Musk, leader of SpaceX and Tesla, has donated nearly $ 200,000 – mostly to Republicans, according to FEC records. The donations came earlier, public rift with Trump over his decision to withdraw the United States from an international climate accord. A family familiar with Musk's thinking, who spoke of the condition of anonymity, said he has also contributed to two organizations to elect House and Senate Democrats – although the reports have not yet been filed with the FEC. A spokesman for the tech executive declined to comment.


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