Tech billionaire Peter Thiel, who endorsed Donald Trump during the presidential campaign, is now a member of the President-elect's transition team, despite drawing controversy for his support.
During the RNC convention, when Thiel enthusiastically praised the Republican nominee, critics wondered why a gay man in an industry allegedly marked by forward-thinking and innovation could support the 2016 Republican party platform. But it shouldn't be all that surprising, since like many big industries Silicon Valley profits from deregulation policies that are central to the GOP platform.
In a New York Times op-ed, Thomas Edsall makes an interesting observation about the tech industry's elections activity: PACs linked to Microsoft, Facebook, Google and Amazon supported congressional Republicans at far higher rates than their Democratic opponents, even as tech sector employees went for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump at a rate of almost 2 to 1.
Edsall explains why:
As these technology firms have become corporate behemoths, their concerns over government regulatory policy have intensified — on issues including privacy, taxation, automation and antitrust. These are questions on which they appear to view Republicans as stronger allies than Democrats.
In 2016, the PACs of these four firms gave a total of $3.6 million to House and Senate candidates. Of that, $2.1 million went to Republicans, and $1.5 million went to Democrats. These PACs did not contribute to presidential candidates.
There are other issues at play for why tech founders might align with the GOP. Despite a general tendency to agree with Democrats on social issues, many in the tech industry are less likely to be concerned with things like wealth and income inequality.
In a survey cited in the piece, Fast Company analyzed tech founders' views on economic issues: "A minority, 29 percent, of tech company founders described labor unions as 'good,' compared to 73 percent of Democrats," Edsall says.
A large majority seemed to favor free trade policies—73 percent, which puts them at odds with the progressive populism espoused by left-wing policymakers like Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
During the campaign, Trump pledged to keep jobs in America. The economic interests of Peter Thiel's industry don't appear to align with that promise.