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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By Curtis Tate, McClatchy Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — California’s technology sector has booted up a bigger presence in politics in recent years, a shift for an industry that began on the outside but is fast becoming an inside player.
Silicon Valley still has some catching up to do. Tech firms are still not as big a force as Wall Street banks or health care companies. But unlike many sectors that are cutting back on such efforts, Big Tech is expanding its participation in politics, whether that’s support for particular candidates or lobbying on issues important to the industry.

“They’re no longer the little guys trying to make it,” said Paul Goodman, an attorney with the Greenlining Institute, a social justice advocacy organization in Berkeley, Calif.

California-based companies such as Apple, Google, Yahoo, and Facebook have long grown out of the dorm rooms and garages where they were founded and have since become powerful corporations with policy priorities.

“They understand how the political game in D.C. is played,” said Dave Levinthal, who tracks tech sector politics and lobbying for the Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan investigative research group in Washington, “and they’re playing it at a high level.”

Not surprisingly, though, technology companies are accustomed to changing at a faster pace than the way usual Washington usually operates.

“There’s deep disappointment that Washington, D.C., doesn’t run at the same speed as business,” said Steve Wright, a senior vice president at the San Jose-based Silicon Valley Leadership Group, which has 400 member companies.

The industry has four basic priorities, Wright said: Immigration reform, corporate tax reform, cyber security, and net neutrality. Government surveillance, as revealed by the Edward Snowden-NSA scandal is also a concern, given the industry’s international footprint.

Though the tech sector has a left-leaning reputation, the industry has been more pretty even-handed in its political contributions. The same sector that’s been a staunch supporter of Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader and a San Francisco liberal, is also a big backer of Rep. Kevin McCarthy, a Bakersfield conservative who recently ascended to House majority leader.

Excluding presidential candidates, since 2001, the technology sector has given a total of $365 million to Democrats and $312 million to Republicans, according to an analysis of campaign data by MapLight, a nonpartisan organization that tracks money’s influence on politics.

“The bottom line for them is their bottom line,” Levinthal said. “They want someone, first and foremost, who’s an advocate for their issues.”

Case in point: President Barack Obama.

The success of Obama’s first presidential campaign was due, in no small part, to his early backing in 2007 by Silicon Valley. He is by far the biggest benefactor of tech sector money than any other current officeholder, according to the MapLight analysis.

MapLight showed that Obama has received more than $16.5 million from technology companies, their employees, and political action committees since 2004.

The next four officeholders who ran, unsuccessfully, for president, in the same time frame only collected half of Obama’s haul, including Secretary of State John Kerry; former Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY); Sen. John McCain (R-AZ); and former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX).

Silicon Valley has some Ayn Rand fans, as well. Paul, a libertarian who mounted multiple bids for the presidency, collected more than $1.4 million from tech sector donors.

“The industry is known for liking iconoclasts,” said Sarah Bryner, research director for the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that compiles data on campaign spending and lobbying.

According to the group’s numbers, six of the top 10 biggest spenders on lobbying for tech sector interests in 2013 were California-based companies: Google, Oracle, Hewlett-Packard, Facebook, Intel, and Apple. Goodman said they are building a presence in Washington for a reason.

“They don’t do anything without a long-term goal in mind,” he said. “They’re thinking very far ahead.”

Take immigration. Technology companies have been clamoring for a comprehensive immigration bill to increase the number of work visas for the foreign-born talent they need, but have been frustrated by Washington gridlock.

The recent surprise primary upset of former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), was considered by some observers to be a blow to those efforts. His successor, McCarthy, was thought to be less receptive to tech-favored legislation.

Not so, according to Wright, of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.

He said that McCarthy held a conference call last week with several tech industry CEOs. Though he hails from the agriculture-dominated Central Valley, the new House majority leader has become a frequent visitor to Silicon Valley. Wright said McCarthy sends other Republican lawmakers there, as well, to hear the industry’s perspective.

“He clearly gets it,” Wright said.

AFP Photo/Kimihiro Hoshino

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Many Democrats are getting nervous about the upcoming presidential election. Ominous, extensively reported articles by two of the best in the business—the New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin and The Atlantic's Barton Gellman—outline Boss Trump's plot to keep control of the White House in 2021 no matter how the American people vote.
Trump is hardly making a secret of it. He's pointedly refused to commit to "a peaceful transfer of power."

"Well, we're going to have to see what happens," is how he answered the question. He added that after we "get rid of the ballots"—presumably mail-in ballots he's been whining about for weeks--"there won't be a transfer, frankly. There'll be a continuation."

Of course, Trump himself has always voted by mail, but then brazen hypocrisy is his standard operating mode. If you haven't noticed, he also lies a lot. Without prevaricating, boasting, and bitching, he'd be mute. And even then, he'd still have Twitter. He recently tweeted that the winner "may NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED" because mail-in ballots make it a "RIGGED ELECTION in waiting."
Gellman gets this part exactly right in The Atlantic: "Let us not hedge about one thing. Donald Trump may win or lose, but he will never concede. Not under any circumstance. Not during the Interregnum and not afterward. If compelled in the end to vacate his office, Trump will insist from exile, as long as he draws breath, that the contest was rigged.
"Trump's invincible commitment to this stance will be the most important fact about the coming Interregnum. It will deform the proceedings from beginning to end. We have not experienced anything like it before."
No, we haven't. However, it's important to remember that Trump makes threats and promises almost daily that never happen. Remember that gigantic border wall Mexico was going to pay for? Trump has built exactly five miles of the fool thing, leaving roughly two thousand to go.
His brilliant cheaper, better health care plan? Non-existent.
On Labor Day, Boss Trump boasted of his unparalleled success in strong-arming Japan into building new auto-manufacturing plants. "They're being built in Ohio, they're being built in South Carolina, North Carolina, they're being built all over and expanded at a level that we've never seen before."
Not a word of that is true. Two new plants, one German, another Swedish have opened in South Carolina, but construction began before Trump took office. Auto industry investment during Barack Obama's second term far exceeded Trump's. His version is sheer make-believe.
But back to the GOP scheme to steal the election.
First, it's clear that even Trump understands that he has virtually no chance of winning the national popular vote. He's been polling in the low 40s, with no sign of change. To have any chance of prevailing in the Electoral College, he's got to do the electoral equivalent of drawing to an inside straight all over again—winning a half-dozen so-called battleground states where he defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016 by the narrowest of margins.
At this writing, that looks highly unlikely. The latest polling in must-win Pennsylvania, for example, shows Trump trailing Joe Biden by nine points. That's a landslide. Trump's down ten in Wisconsin, eight in Michigan. And so on.
So spare me the screeching emails in ALL CAPS, OK? Polls were actually quite accurate in 2016. Trump narrowly defeated the odds. It can happen. But he's in far worse shape this time. Furthermore, early voting turnout is very high, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans two to one.
Hence, The Atlantic reports, "Trump's state and national legal teams are already laying the groundwork for post-election maneuvers that would circumvent the results of the vote count in battleground states."
The plan is clear. Because more Democrats than Republicans are choosing mail-in voting during the COVID pandemic, Trump hopes to prevent those ballots from being counted. Assuming he'll have a narrow "swing state" lead on election night, he'll declare victory and start filing lawsuits. "The red mirage," some Democrats call it.
"As a result," Toobin writes, "the aftermath of the 2020 election has the potential to make 2000 look like a mere skirmish." With Trump in the White House urging armed militias to take to the street.
Mail-in votes take a long time to count. Things could definitely get crazy.
True, but filing a lawsuit to halt a Florida recount was one thing. Filing suits against a half dozen states to prevent votes from being counted at all is quite another. Public reaction would be strong. Also, winning such lawsuits requires serious evidence of fraud. Trumpian bluster ain't evidence.
The Atlantic reports that GOP-controlled state legislatures are thinking about sending Trumpist delegations to the Electoral College regardless of the popular vote winner—theoretically constitutional but currently illegal.
Fat chance. If that's the best they've got, they've got nothing.
Anyway, here's the answer: Vote early, and in person*.

[Editor's note: In some states, receiving an absentee ballot means that a voter can no longer vote in person* or may have to surrender the absentee ballot, including the envelope in which it arrived, at their polling place. Please check with your local election authorities.]