Mike Bloomberg will ask tech billionaires to support his presidential campaign in a private reception with some of Silicon Valley’s biggest power brokers on Thursday evening, Recode has learned.
The briefing behind closed doors shows how Bloomberg is not shy about seeking the backing of Big Tech — a group whose favor with the public has fallen so low that candidates like Elizabeth Warren have said they’ll reject taking their money entirely. The event is also a reminder of the support that Bloomberg, the world’s eighth-richest person, is drawing from the mega-wealthy who are concerned about the anti-billionaire rhetoric from Warren and Bernie Sanders.
Bloomberg’s event at a gallery in San Francisco’s SoMa neighborhood is billed as “a private gathering of business and community leaders to hear directly from Mike on his path to victory,” according to a copy of an invitation seen by Recode. It will be Bloomberg’s most direct pitch yet to the tech industry, where he has strong financial and personal ties stretching back decades.
“Mike is supporting Democrats and that’s what this event is about,” a Bloomberg spokesperson said. “These are people who want to support the Democratic Party and we’re bringing them together to help candidates up and down the ballot. As everyone knows, Mike has never taken a penny from special interests and as a tech entrepreneur himself, he appreciates the creativity, job creation, and ecosystem of innovation in this community.”
Some of the people that Bloomberg’s campaign has approached include Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce, venture capitalist Ron Conway, LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, and veteran political fundraiser Susie Tompkins Buell.
Conway confirmed his attendance to Recode. It’s unclear if Benioff, Hoffman or Buell are attending — a Benioff spokesperson declined to comment while Hoffman and Buell didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Several of those leaders have had strong ties to Cory Booker, who recently dropped out of the 2020 race, and so they are looking for a new 2020 candidate to back. Hoffman has known Booker since college and hosted a fundraiser for him last year; Conway has also been listed as a major Booker fundraiser, and Benioff has also donated. Buell, who is one of San Francisco’s most venerated fundraisers, ranks among the biggest bundlers for Pete Buttigieg.
Bloomberg has fans among Silicon Valley’s elite. He has invested in many of its companies, primarily through backing every startup to graduate from Y Combinator, the tech industry’s most celebrated startup program. Former Bloomberg aides from his tenure as mayor of New York City are littered across the ranks of Big Tech and the startup world alike. And a pair of senior tech executives — former Foursquare CEO Jeff Glueck and Facebook’s former chief marketing officer Gary Briggs — are overseeing digital efforts for Bloomberg, who has said he will spend $1 billion on his campaign.
And as Recode has previously reported, one very prominent tech billionaire is a big fan of New York City’s former mayor: Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who asked Bloomberg in a call last year if he’d consider running for president. The news prompted the admonition of Warren, who thinks that tech billionaires already have too much influence in the political system.
Bloomberg, who only entered the race this fall, has not been asked directly for his thoughts about Big Tech — whether about its influence on society or questions about how it should or shouldn’t be regulated. But he has consistently preached a more moderate, business-friendly politics, a stance that is endearing to many industry leaders who recoil at the more fire-and-brimstone anti-tech rhetoric of Warren and Bernie Sanders.
Bloomberg is not raising money for his campaign — so his pitch on Thursday to these tech leaders, unlike most other candidates’, is not centered on a check. But having their support could help burnish his reputation as an innovator and an admired entrepreneur.
Plus, Bloomberg has other reasons to be focusing on California: He is skipping the early voting states and has encircled the Golden State as a major priority. His campaign, which already has 1,000 people on staff, has pledged to build the “largest statewide operation in history to California.” Bloomberg is scheduled to appear at a public event in Monterey, California on Friday, following the exclusive reception.