Donald Trump is killing it in digital campaigning and Democratic tech billionaires have plans to catch up. These billionaires are spending tens of millions behind the scenes to help Joe Biden.
With the pandemic keeping people in-doors, public rallies and knocking on doors are not an option so digital campaigning is crucial.
While Trump is leading in digital, according to Vox, tech billionaires affiliated to the Democratic Party have plans to catch up. They're spending their money behind the scenes on everything from “nerdy” projects such as political science experiments to less-moral methods such as hyper-partisan news sites.
Biden's campaign efforts involve more digital hires, outsourcing some digital functions, and the creation of more engaging digital content.
“Because the Biden campaign is the Biden campaign, what we are doing on the independent side matters a hell of a lot more than it would previously,” said a Democrat Party official.
The digital world plays to the strengths of these tech moguls and they plan to become very influential in shaping the upcoming November elections. The billionaires rallying behind Biden include Steve Jobs' widow Laurene Powell Jobs, LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, and Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz.
In a private 12-page memo written by Hoffman's top political adviser, Dmitri Mehlhorn, and distributed to prominent donors late last month, Mehlhorn said the key to “beating Trump's brand machine” was in part to build an equivalent content machine on the left, “building trusted media channels with peer-to-peer elements” and “content that has a journalistic flavor.”
However, some democrats, such as Elizabeth Warren, are wary about how powerful tech companies are becoming.
Four years ago, Hillary Clinton described the Democratic Party's data as “bankrupt”. Traditionally, compared to the Republicans, the Democrats have not always been able to coordinate their big-money spenders. The arrival of Silicon Valley billionaires who are willing to pour loads of cash to the party's digital infrastructure is not exactly good news. These tech gurus are secretive and holding them accountable will be difficult.
Vox reports that while Wall Street donors are content with merely giving money, tech billionaires want control.
“My problem is when Silicon Valley folks think that they know how to do our jobs better. I would never walk into Google or anywhere else and say, ‘Your model sucks'. I don't second-guess them, and I'm asking them not to second-guess us,” said Jane Kleeb, the Nebraska Democratic Party chair.
Kleeb is particularly concerned about Alloy, a political startup that received an investment of $18 million from LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman. Alloy plans to store data on voters from several progressive groups. Hoffman and the other tech donors feel that acquiring such data is critical for making huge leaps in digital campaigning.
The issue is that party leaders such as Kleeb feel that Alloy is circumventing the data acquisition process by buying lists of voters' phone numbers. They would instead build on the voter files they already have. Also, the party's senior digital officials think Alloy is a waste of time, as the company has made little progress.
Moreover, not all tech billionaire donors are behind Alloy. Some, like Schmidt, are prefer revising the existing data files to make up for the deficits. According to sources, Schmidt funded the Democratic Data Exchange, an intervention by the DNC, to promote data sharing at the State level.