In a way, it’s a story as old as time: ultra-wealthy figures pouring a flood of money into city politics in an effort to shape the way it is run.
Still, the political-influence machine that tech billionaires and venture capitalists have recently built in San Francisco stands out for its size and ambition. A new analysis of campaign filings, non-profit records and political contributions by the Guardian and Mission Local reveals the extent of this network, which is using its financial and organizational muscle to push the famously progressive city into adopting policies that are tougher on crime and homelessness, and more favorable to business and housing construction.
In the past six years, prominent tech and venture capital leaders – including the hedge fund manager William Oberndorf, billionaire investor Michael Moritz, cryptocurrency booster Chris Larsen, PayPal co-founder David Sacks, Y Combinator CEO Garry Tan and Pantheon CEO Zachary Rosen – have invested at least $5.7m into reshaping San Francisco’s policies, according to the analysis of public data. Because not all of their donations are publicly disclosed, the sum of their contributions may be far higher.
In a solidly Democratic city, they’ve joined forces with traditional business and real estate elites in an effort to oust some of its most progressive leaders and undo its most progressive policies.