When it comes to money and politics, Hollywood has long been a generous piggy bank. But this election season, the Bay Area emerged as the preeminent financial political power in the Golden State.
The NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit teamed with NBC stations across the country to follow the campaign money this political season. We discovered that Silicon Valley’s tech and venture capital industries have eclipsed nearly every other industry in campaign spending this cycle.
Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison tops the list as California’s biggest donor. Federal election records show Ellison contributed north of $5 million to various conservative causes, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s presidential run.
Daniel Newman tracks and monitors campaign financing as co-founder of the Berkeley nonprofit Maplight. Newman believes as wealth in Silicon Valley continues to grow, so too will the region’s political spending.
“It's not so much about geography as it is about where are the wealthy people and the wealthy groups. Certainly, Hollywood is the center of that, Silicon Valley, New York, Texas, the big states and the wealthiest areas. It's a tiny fraction of the population that funds those politicians,” Newman told NBC Bay Area.
Maplight has teamed with NBC stations, including NBC Bay Area, to create Voter’s Edge, a non-partisan, online tool to give voters in various states, including California, information about this year’s election. Click here to access Voter’s Edge
Federal Election Commission records show Bay Area residents spent a total of $215,791,439 through July 31, 2016, this campaign season. That’s $37 million more than the $177,934,242 spent by residents in the greater Los Angeles area, despite Southern California’s larger population.
The Nation’s Piggy Bank
An NBC analysis found that two-thirds of the money raised by Californians went to out of state or presidential candidates. Beneficiaries include candidates running for U.S. Senate in nine states currently considered up for grabs.
CLICK ON A STATE BELOW TO SEE HOW MUCH CALIFORNIANS CONTRIBUTED TO 2016 SENATE CANDIDATES
“What the national government does affects all of us. Right now the control of the Senate is up for grabs. Whether it's Republican or Democratic control has a big effect on everyone in the country, including the wealthy groups that are finding these campaigns,” Newman said.
Matthew Mahood is president and CEO of the Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce. The group represents many of the companies and corporate officers giving these large sums of money.
“There are issues that any elected official, whether they’re in Florida or Ohio or New York, they're going to be key decision-makers on issues that affect immigration reform, that affect trade, affect taxes, affect intellectual property,” Mahood said. “Those are all issues that Silicon Valley businesses, business leaders, innovators, [and] entrepreneurs, care about because ultimately the policies that are made in Washington, D.C., do affect our businesses here in San Jose.”
Most Giving Silicon Valley Companies
Critics of the current campaign financing system fear that it opens the door for donors to lean on politicians for favors in exchange. Newman believes this is a problem that can also result in the average citizen’s voice being drowned out.
Again, we’ve teamed with Maplight on a special website called Voter’s Edge to give you non-partisan information about elections here in California. Click here to go to Voter’s Edge
If you have a tip for the Investigative Unit, give us a call at 1-888-996-8477, or you can reach us via email at TheUnit@nbcbayarea.com