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High-Tech Donations Tilt Toward Democrats

A clutch of Democratic Senators will be in California this week hobnobbing with executives from such high-tech giants as Google, Facebook and Symantec.

Billed as the National Innovation Conference, the event is sponsored by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which is asking prospective hosts to shell out as much as $30,400, the maximum annual contribution allowed, to underwrite the event.

The Silicon Valley fundraiser on Friday and Saturday underscores the Democrats’ hope that the high-tech entrepreneurs, who in 2008 warmed to then-presidential contender Barack Obama’s pledge to push their issues, are still in a generous mood toward the party.

The high-tech and telecommunications sector has been favoring Democratic candidates in this election cycle, according to a CQ MoneyLine analysis of Federal Election Commission records.

The industry’s political action committees have given $10.4 million to Democrats and $8 million to Republicans through the middle of summer. Companies such as Google Inc., Microsoft Corp., Yahoo Inc., Hewlett Packard Co. and eBay Inc. are all showering more PAC donations on Democrats than on the GOP.

But industry officials suggest the donations are likely to shift before the elections, particularly if it becomes certain Republicans will make major gains in the midterm elections.

“They give a little bit more to the people in power,” said Josh Ackil, a Democratic high-tech lobbyist with the Franklin Square Group. But Ackil said the industry has a bipartisan bent and giving will likely become more even before the cycle is over.

Other tech insiders said the industry’s officials are watching the polls.

“There is a feeling of ‘Oh my gosh, there is a wave election upon us and we better be ready for the new kids on the block,’” said Ralph Hellmann, vice president of the Information Technology Industry Council.

Hellmann, who worked for former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), said the high-tech sector has been frustrated with the Obama administration and Congressional Democrats on a number of issues. The research and development tax credit, a big deal for the industry, expired last year, and lawmakers have been unable to agree on how to extend it.

Furthermore, the administration has recommended plugging foreign tax loopholes to pay for new tax incentives, a proposal that is opposed by high-tech outfits with global operations.

The directive to balance out company giving has been coming directly from the CEOs, Hellmann said. Indeed, the top brass of some high-tech companies have been spreading around their wealth when it comes to individual political giving.

Take Bill Gates, the chairman of Microsoft, who this year contributed to top Republican leaders including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.), and House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.). He also gave $5,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Gates also donated to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.).

Microsoft’s PAC has given a little more than half of its contributions to Democrats, a slightly smaller percentage than the last election cycle but more than 2006 when it favored Republicans.

Google’s PAC has given almost 60 percent of its contributions to Democrats, about the same percentage as in the last election cycle.

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