by Kim S. Nash

Tech Industry Leaders and Their Political Donations

Oct 16, 20126 mins
GovernmentIT Leadership

Money, politics and tech CEOs. Here's a look at who is giving what to whom and who's not giving anything at all.

Impressive money is changing hands as IT executives play politics. The CEOs of the 20 biggest technology companies together have donated $530,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a watchdog group that tracks political giving at its website, Some IT executives are clearly left or right, while others, such as Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer, play it down the middle with financial support for both Republicans and Democrats. You may be surprised by who has donated nothing at all. Here’s a look at who gave how much to whom this election cycle.

Techies Turned Politicians

For a more grassroots look, check out’s infographic that shows how employees at the Top 20 companies are donating.

Meg Whitman, HP

Meg Whitman, Hewlett-Packard Amount donated: $129,000 Largest donation: $100,000, to Restore our Future

Whitman, a Republican and erstwhile politician who lost a bid for governor of California in 2010, is a heavy hitter, especially for Restore our Future, a political action committee trying to get Mitt Romney elected president. Whitman has also given to the California 2012 GOP Delegation, Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and Romney directly.

Steve Ballmer, Microsoft

Steve Ballmer, Microsoft. Amount donated: $80,500 Largest donation: Tie: $15,000 each, to the Republican National Committee and the Democrats’ DNC Services Corp.

You can’t always guess how someone will vote based on what he does with his funds. Ballmer neatly plays both sides, contributing right and left. For example, he has given $5,000 to the Freedom Project, a PAC affiliated with Republican U.S. Representative John Boehner and another $5,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. And you thought Microsoft’s product roadmaps were hard to read. Ballmer and his wife each donated $50,000 to President Barack Obama’s inaugural celebration in 2008. Chairman Bill Gates, by the way, has given $160,000, 70 percent of which went to Democratic organizations.

Brian Roberts, Comcast

Brian Roberts, Comcast Amount donated: $68,000 Largest donation: $20,000, to DNC Services Corp.

Roberts appears to be the most staunchly Democratic donator among the biggest technology vendors, with 100 percent of his giving going to the party and candidates. Roberts serves on Barack Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, formed in 2011 to provide non-partisan advice to the President about strengthening the U.S. economy.

Paul Jacobs, Qualcomm

Paul Jacobs, Qualcomm Amount donated: $53,300 Largest donation: $30,800, to DNC Services Corp.

Jacobs gave the largest annual donation to a national political party — the Democrats — allowed by law. He’s also shelled out money to Democratic candidate for Congress Scott Peters, as well as to Qualcomm’s own political action committee (PAC) and to Barack Obama.

Randall Stephenson, AT&T

Randall Stephenson, AT&T Amount donated: $50,048 Largest donation: $30,800, to the Republican National Committee

Stephenson supports Republican causes, including the National Republican Senatorial Committee and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio). He also contributed to the past presidential campaigns of John McCain and George W. Bush.

Larry Ellison, Oracle

Larry Ellison, Oracle Amount donated: $35,000 Largest donation: $5,000 each to multiple Congressional candidates

Like Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Ellison mixes it up, too, when it comes to political giving. He has donated $35,000 this election season to Democrats and Republicans pretty much equally. For example, Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) got $5,000 from Ellison; so did Scott Brown (R-Mass.). Political donations don’t necessarily reflect the giver’s personal penchants. CEOs know donating is a time-honored way to support or oppose legislative agendas that could affect their companies. Of course, $35,000 is a pittance compared to the $10 million Ellison has pledged to spend improving the Hawaiian island he bought last summer.

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Lowell McAdam, Verizon

Lowell McAdam, Verizon Amount donated: $34,000 Largest donation: Tie: National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Verizon PAC

Verizon’s head honcho also serves as vice chairman for the Cellular Telecom & Internet Association, or CTIA, one of the largest lobbying groups for the telecommunications industry. The CTIA has spent more than $16 million lobbying in the past two years to influence telecom regulations and other topics, such as the federal budget and consumer product safety.

Michael Dell, Dell

Michael Dell, Dell Amount donated: $20,000 Largest donation: $5,000 each to multiple Congressional candidates

Dell supports his local politicians, giving pairs of $2,500 gifts to several three Texas Republicans: Michael McCaul, Lamar Smith and John Carter. He donated another $5,000 to Dell’s own PAC, which contributes money to federal and state candidates as well as to parties and committees.

Paul Otellini, Intel

Paul Otellini, Intel Amount donated: $19,000 Largest donation: $7,500, to the National Republican Congressional Committee

Otellini is a strong supporter of Republican candidates and causes. Like Brian Roberts, Comcast’s staunch Democratic supporter, Otellini serves on Obama’s non-partisan Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.

Daniel Hesse, Sprint

Daniel Hesse, Sprint Amount donated: $15,080 Largest donation: $5,000, to the Cellular Telecom & Internet Association

Hesse focuses his giving mainly on causes, sending money to a major political action committee for the telecommunications industry as well as to the Forward Together PAC, which bills itself as a group seeking “good, efficient governance” without ideology or agenda. Hesse also contributed to Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.).

Larry Page, Google

Larry Page, Google Amount donated: $10,250 Largest donation: $10,000, to Google PAC

Page put the lion’s share of his donations into Google’s political action committee, which has spent its money almost equally on supporting Republican and Democratic Congressional candidates. In 2008, Page donated $25,000 to Obama’s inaugural celebration.

Rick Hamada, Avnet

Rick Hamada, Avnet Amount donated: $5,500 Largest donation: $5,000, to Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.)

Hamada supports Jeff Flake, a Republican representative in Avnet’s home state, with a donation that makes Avnet one of Flake’s top 100 supporters.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon

Jeff Bezos, Amazon Amount donated: $5,000 Largest donation: $5,000, to Amazon PAC

Like Google’s Larry Page and Verizon’s Lowell McAdam, Bezos chose his company’s own political action committee to receive his political contribution. The Amazon PAC has given more to Republicans than Democrats (59 percent to 41 percent).

Michael Strianese, L-3 Communications

Michael Strianese, L-3 Communications Amount donated: $5,000 Largest donation: $5,000, to L-3 Communications PAC

Strianese threw $5,000 into his company’s political action committee, which has parceled out more funds to Republicans (57 percent) than to Democrats (43 percent). He is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a non-partisan group that studies issues in globalization and foreign policy.

CEOs that didn't make political contributions

The Zero Givers

Some CEOs sat out this election season, choosing not to contribute to political campaigns or committees. Notable zero givers include IBM’s Virginia Rometty and Apple’s Tim Cook. Also among those CEOs at top IT vendors who made no political donations are Ingram Micro’s Alain Monie, Tech Data’s Robert Dutkowsky, Arrow Electronics’ Michael Long and Computer Sciences Corp.’s John Lawrie.