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Silicon Valley Emerges as a Political Force

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Reprinted from Truthdig


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When Jeb Bush visited Silicon Valley this week, the Republican candidate was visiting the heart of a Democratic state that few expect to be contested in the 2016 presidential election. But when it comes to the political money chase, the Northern California home of the world's technology giants spreads the wealth to both parties -- positioning the tech industry as one of the most powerful forces in American politics.

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Since 2008, the Internet firms, software companies, computer manufacturers and data processors that comprise Silicon Valley have delivered more than $172 million worth of campaign contributions in federal elections, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. That's a nearly 40 percent increase over the prior eight years. Counting only presidential election years, the increase is even more dramatic: The $109 million of Silicon Valley money pumped into the 2008 and 2012 elections represents a 61 percent increase from 2004 and 2000.

Out of the money given directly to candidates (as opposed to third party groups) since 2008, Democrats have received 62 percent of the contributions. But Republicans' 37 percent in that same time was hardly pocket change -- it translated into a whopping $55 million.

In a vacuum, these figures may seem unimportant. But in context, they are astounding. All of a sudden, Silicon Valley has surpassed many traditional political powerhouses as a source of campaign cash. Specifically, in the last election cycle, technology firms delivered more money to candidates for president and Congress than defense contractors, pharmaceutical manufacturers, the automotive industry and Hollywood.

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"Silicon Valley woke up to the importance of influencing public policy," said Stanford University's Vivek Wadhwa.

In 2012, that influence was on display when Internet firms notched an unexpected victory over the Hollywood studios that were pushing legislation to hold Internet companies responsible for the illegal transmission of pirated movies and television shows. Despite the so-called Stop Online Piracy Act being backed by the powerful Motion Picture Association of America, the bill was defeated by tech firms' furious lobbying campaign against the measure.

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David Sirota is a full-time political journalist, best-selling author and nationally syndicated newspaper columnist living in Denver, Colorado. He blogs for Working Assets and the Denver Post's PoliticsWest website. He is a Senior Editor at In These Times magazine, which in 2006 received the Utne Independent Press Award for political coverage. His 2006 book, Hostile Takeover, was a New York Times bestseller, and is now out in paperback. He has been a guest on, among others, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC and NPR. His writing, which draws on his (more...)
 

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