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When Jeb Bush visited Silicon Valley this week, the Republican candidate was visiting the heart of a Democratic state that few expect to be contested in the 2016 presidential election. But when it comes to the political money chase, the Northern California home of the world’s technology giants spreads the wealth to both parties — positioning the tech industry as one of the most powerful forces in American politics.

Since 2008, the Internet firms, software companies, computer manufacturers and data processors that comprise Silicon Valley have delivered more than $172 million worth of campaign contributions in federal elections, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. That’s a nearly 40 percent increase over the prior 8 years. Counting only presidential election years, the increase is even more dramatic: The $109 million of Silicon Valley money pumped into the 2008 and 2012 elections represents a 61 percent increase from 2004 and 2000.

Out of the money given directly to candidates (as opposed to third party groups) since 2008, Democrats have received 62 percent of the contributions. But Republicans’ 37 percent in that same time was hardly pocket change — it translated into a whopping $55 million.

In a vacuum, these figures may seem unimportant. But in context, they are astounding. All of a sudden, Silicon Valley has surpassed many traditional political powerhouses as a source of campaign cash. Specifically, in the last election cycle, technology firms delivered more money to candidates for president and Congress than defense contractors, pharmaceutical manufacturers, the automotive industry and Hollywood.

“Silicon Valley woke up to the importance of influencing public policy,” said Stanford University’s Vivek Wadhwa.

In 2012, that influence was on display when Internet firms notched an unexpected victory over the Hollywood studios that were pushing legislation to hold Internet companies responsible for the illegal transmission of pirated movies and television shows. Despite the so-called Stop Online Piracy Act being backed by the powerful Motion Picture Association of America, the bill was defeated by tech firms’ furious lobbying campaign against the measure.

Of Silicon Valley’s ability to defeat Hollywood-backed legislation, MPAA chairman Chris Dodd said at the time: “It’s a watershed event, what happened.”

Of course, as Wadhwa notes, there is no single Silicon Valley public policy agenda. Tech firms, he asserts want “freedom from regulation and immigration,” but, he says, “there is no single ideology.”

That said, technology firms have forged a unified front on some hot-button issues, moving beyond immigration reform, corporate regulation and the online piracy bill.

In 2013, Silicon Valley giants such as Facebook, Apple, Google, and Mozilla pressed for limits on National Security Agency surveillance after disclosures by whistleblower Edward Snowden. A few years later, Congress reformed the Patriot Act to add restrictions on such surveillance.

Similarly, in March of this year, Silicon Valley won a victory when the Federal Communications Commission passed so-called “net neutrality” rules designed to prevent cable companies from charging different transmission rates to Internet content providers. Most recently, Apple, Google and Facebook wrote a letter to President Barack Obama declaring their opposition to any efforts to weaken encryption standards.

While the power shift toward Silicon Valley is significant, it should not be altogether surprising. Information technology is becoming ever more integral to American society. And the tech industry’s millionaires and billionaires are ready to take their place as political powerbrokers, in much the same way oil and railroad barons represented new political power more than a century ago.

The implications of that revolution are profound not just for campaign fundraising, but ultimately for a whole new generation of public policy.

David Sirota is a senior writer at the International Business Times and the best-selling author of the books Hostile Takeover, The Uprising, and Back to Our Future. Email him at ds@davidsirota.com, follow him on Twitter @davidsirota or visit his website at www.davidsirota.com.

Photo: Patrick Nouhailler via Flickr

Sen. David Perdue

Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) pulled out of his final debate against Democrat Jon Ossoff on Thursday —because he'd rather attend a Donald Trump campaign rally.

The Nov. 1 Senate debate was planned months ago, but Perdue's campaign said he could not participate as promised because he has been too busy doing his job.

"Senator Perdue will not be participating in the WSB-TV debate but will instead join the 45th president, Donald J. Trump, for a huge Get-Out-The-Vote rally in Northwest Georgia. For 8 of the last 14 days of this campaign, Senator Perdue went back to Washington to work for much needed COVID relief," his spokesperson John Burke said in a statement, referencing a failed attempt by Senate Republicans to pass Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) "skinny" $500 billion proposal.

"To make up for the lost time, Senator Perdue has over 20 campaign stops planned for the closing days of this race, and he is excited to welcome and join President Trump in Georgia before November 3rd to campaign for both of their re-election efforts," Burke added.

WSB-TV noted on Thursday that it offered Perdue's campaign other time slots to accommodate the Trump rally, but the overture was rebuffed.

Ossoff's campaign blasted Perdue's "cowardly withdrawal," saying in a statement that the move "says it all: David Perdue feels entitled to his office, and he'll do anything to avoid accountability for his blatant corruption and his total failure during this unprecedented health crisis."

The incumbent's decision to break his promise to debate came one day after a video of Jon Ossoff criticizing Perdue's anti-Obamacare record at a Wednesday debate went viral. As of Friday morning, a 72-second clip of Ossoff has been viewed more than 12 million times.

Perdue responded to that attack by making the odd claim that he repeatedly voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act — which would take insurance away from hundreds of thousands of his constituents — because he believed doing so would cover more people.

"I voted against the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, because it was taking insurance away from millions of Georgians. Today almost 18 percent of Georgians don't have any health insurance because of the Affordable Care Act," he falsely claimed.

This is not the first time Perdue has put Trump ahead of the interests of Georgians. According to FiveThirtyEight, he has voted with Trump about 95 percent of the time, including backing his right-wing Supreme Court nominees, his tax cuts for large corporations and the very wealthy, and his repeated attempts to take money from military families to pay for a massive Southern border wall.

Medical experts and data analyses have suggested Trump's rallies have been super-spreader events for the coronavirus. Trump has refused to adhere to social distancing rules or to require mask usage at the events and the mass gatherings have frequently been immediately followed by case spikes in the communities where he holds them.

One poll this week found that voters across the country said they are less likely to vote for Trump because of his "large, in-person campaign rallies where wearing a mask is not required of attendees."

The race between Ossoff and Perdue is considered a "toss-up" by election experts, and polls show it as virtual tied.

If no candidate gets a majority on Tuesday, the top two finishers will face off in a January runoff.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.