Trump gets Silicon Valley fundraiser

One March evening in the nation’s capital, Senator JD Vance, Republican of Ohio, left a conservative gala to join a group having dinner with Donald Trump Jr.

As the meal ended, Mr. Vance decided, on a whim, to invite a friend, whom he had just introduced at the gala dinner, to meet the former president’s son. Soon, the three Republicans — Mr. Vance, Mr. Trump Jr. and Mr. Vance’s friend David Sacks, the Silicon Valley entrepreneur — were getting acquainted for about a half hour in a private dining room in the Conrad Hotel.

It was there, at that impromptu after-dinner party, hours after Mr. Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee, that Mr. Sacks indicated he was all-in for Trump 2024.

Thursday evening, this time on his home turf in California, it will be Mr. Sacks’ turn to welcome the Trump team. The former president himself is flying to San Francisco to attend a fundraiser at Mr. Sacks’ $20 million home on the noisiest street in the upscale Pacific Heights neighborhood. The private event, the campaign’s first fundraiser since Mr. Trump’s criminal conviction last week, is expected to raise more than $12 million, according to people involved in the gathering.

Beyond the money, the fundraiser at the beating heart of the liberal tech industry is also shaping up to be a landmark event, at least symbolically.

Four years ago, and certainly eight years ago, the Bay Area remained a haven for liberalism and offered little support for Mr. Trump. But that Obama-era bonhomie between Silicon Valley and the Democratic Party is about to disintegrate. These days, entrepreneurs complain as much about President Biden as they do about Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Lina Khan, who has ascended to Darth Vader status in some sectors of the tech industry.

To be sure, most tech industry elites maintain their liberal leanings on everything from immigration to climate change. Mr. Biden took his own trip to Silicon Valley last month, where he raised millions of dollars and preyed on Internet icons, including Vinod Khosla, the venture capitalist, and Marissa Mayer, the former CEO of Yahoo. But times have changed, and Republicans nationally see an opportunity to make inroads with wealthy entrepreneurs who have drifted to the right following the Covid pandemic and resistance to the social justice movements of 2020.

“It’s safe to say that there is a wellspring of support in Silicon Valley,” Mr. Sacks wrote in an essay for the New York Times, “especially given the backlash over the political prosecution of Trump.” “.

Mr. Sacks expressed a desire to his friends to make the San Francisco event a statement of sorts. He hopes to portray Silicon Valley as a changed place — and San Francisco as no longer the liberal mecca of the Grateful Dead and Allen Ginsberg.

In recent years, Mr. Sacks, a longtime associate of Elon Musk and Peter Thiel, has gone from a prominent Silicon Valley executive to an unlikely media celebrity for would-be entrepreneurs, particularly those on the right, who listen to his popular podcast “All-In”. He has also dramatically increased his political involvement, recruiting aides to direct his donations, creating his own super PACs and, latterly, building connections at Mr. Trump’s Florida home base, Mar-a-Lago , with whom he lacked ties just a few months ago.

“People feel like they have a lot more leeway now,” said Saurabh Sharma, head of a conservative advocacy group called American Moment, which organized the gala featuring Mr. Sacks and Mr. Vance. “It’s not 2016 anymore.”

The trip to San Francisco is Mr. Trump’s first visit to the famous left-wing city in at least a decade. The former president called San Francisco “horrible,” “dirty” and “drug infested,” and he often invoked his local political figures, such as the governor. Gavin Newsom and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as examples of what he sees as liberal excesses.

Some attendees of Mr. Sacks’ event arrive from out of town. As of Tuesday, the event at his home – dubbed the Broadcliff by him and his wife Jacqueline – had sold out both tiers of tickets, $50,000 per person and $300,000 per person. Many people who expressed interest late in going learned they wouldn’t be able to do so. Later over the weekend, Mr. Trump will be hosted in Orange County, Southern California, by another technology entrepreneur, Palmer Luckey, a former Facebook executive who later co-founded the technology company Anduril defense.

Those involved in the San Francisco fundraiser said the roughly $12 million they hoped to raise would exceed their initial goal of about $5 million. About 25 people are expected at the dinner, with about 50 more expected to attend a larger reception. Mr. Trump traveled to the event Thursday evening from Arizona, where he attended a town hall in Phoenix, his first campaign event since his criminal conviction.

San Francisco police cordoned off several blocks surrounding Mr. Sacks, while a small group of Trump supporters gathered in front of the barricades, waving flags and sometimes exchanging insults with passersby. Dinner attendees arrived in SUVs with tinted windows, some waving at the gathering as they passed.

Some of Silicon Valley’s most famous Republicans will not attend the event. Mr. Thiel, who was in Europe this week for the Bilderberg Group’s annual meeting, is not expected to attend, according to two people familiar with his plans. Neither does venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, said a person familiar with his plans. Keith Rabois, a prominent Republican Party donor and an early PayPal executive alongside Mr. Sacks and Mr. Thiel, will not be there, but his husband, Jacob Helberg, will be, as will his guest, Sen. Bill Hagerty, Republican of Tennessee.

Fundraising is expected to rely heavily on crypto industry leaders. Ryan Selkis, a politically active crypto entrepreneur, told people he plans to attend. The industry recently suffered a blow from Mr. Biden, whose veto last week of a pro-crypto bill drove some attendees to the Trump rally, according to a person involved in the event.

“Unlike an event in Palm Beach, where it’s more likely that a group of wealthy people want to go to France or England, this event is a little more about the business community saying, ‘Enough,'” said Trevor Traina. a former ambassador to Austria under Mr. Atout. A friend of Mr. Sacs, Mr. Traina plans to attend the event.

Mr. Sacks benefited from two main sources of help. The first is Chamath Palihapitiya, an early executive at AOL and Facebook, who is now one of Mr. Sacks’ so-called “best friends” on their joint podcast and former major donor Democrats. The other is Mr. Vance, the Ohio senator who lived briefly in San Francisco and worked as a venture capitalist at one of Mr. Thiel’s companies. Mr. Vance, who will be in town for the event, co-founded a donor network popular with some Silicon Valley entrepreneurs called the Rockbridge Network, and he has been deeply involved in urging his industry friends to participate in the gathering.

Among those friends was Mr. Se, whom Mr. Vance called “one of his closest confidants” in politics. Mr. Sacks helped launch Gov. The failure of Ron DeSantis’ presidential bid alongside Mr. Musk on X in early 2023 took time to embrace Mr. Trump. Mr Sacks said the day after January. On June 6, 2021, that the riot at the Capitol had disqualified Mr. Trump from holding elected office, but Mr. Vance then spent more than a year trying to change Mr. Sacks’ mind.

Mr. Sacks told friends that he no longer thought being a Trump supporter in Silicon Valley was so provocative.

During Mr. Trump’s last trip to Silicon Valley for a fundraiser in fall 2019, organizers worked hard to disguise the host of the event, for fear of backlash, not informing guests of the specific location until very close to the day of the fundraiser. -breeder. These days, Trump’s tech supporters are proud – a sign in itself. Ron Conway, a decades-long leader of liberal tech executives, was alarmed by the trend and encouraged some friends to skip the event, according to a person familiar with his thinking. Other Democratic tech veterans even questioned the hosts privately and actually asked them if they had lost their minds.

Shawn Steel, a Republican National Committee member from California who has worked in politics for decades, called the cohort of pro-Trump Republican donors the “real new gladiators.”

“I gave up on Silicon Valley years ago,” Mr. Steel said. “There has been a transformation: real money is coming.”

Mr. Sacks had expressed interest in turning the event into a content creation opportunity, perhaps by removing the microphones for a live recording of Mr. Sacks and Mr. Palihapitiya’s podcast. This plan has since been scuttled. Yet the paper invitation to donors was sure to attach a fairly specific honorific above the names of these two professional venture capitalists: “All-In Co-Hosts.”

Kate Conger reports contributed.

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