Excerpted From Politico: If the first $20 million yielded cheers, the second $15 million generated stunned silence.
Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz vaulted suddenly and without any advance warning to the top rung of Democratic party megadonors with two unheralded tears through his checkbook in the past six weeks. His money significantly altered the short-term financial position of the pro-Hillary Clinton forces and revealed a previously unknown source of cash for Democrats.
In the days after Moskovitz’s money landed, the party’s leading finance operatives struggled to control their excitement at the prospect of finally having an answer to Republicans’ Sheldon Adelson in the shape of a Silicon Valley titan like the ones Democrats have been chasing after for well over a decade.
“This is a unicorn-type campaign gift — you just don’t see someone basically walk into a campaign without a significant track record of activity and contribute at this level,” said veteran Democratic strategist Chris Lehane, a Clinton White House alum who works closely with top party donors in Silicon Valley.
The deeply private 32-year-old — who is worth $12.7 billion, according to Bloomberg — is a longtime philanthropist but political newcomer. He hasn’t started to build contacts with local operatives. And he hasn’t said a word publicly about his political involvement beyond a pair of Medium posts announcing it in the first place.
So now, grateful but puzzled Democrats in Washington and Silicon Valley are wondering, does Moskovitz’s move herald the dawning of the new age of tech money that they’ve been pursuing? Or is his unparalleled cash infusion a non-replicable, one-off response to Donald Trump?
Campaign cash from the tech industry has long skewed heavily to Democrats, and in recent cycles moguls have developed a practice of pitching in toward the end of the campaign to boost candidates, most notably Barack Obama in 2012. Clinton’s bid has even mobilized a set of tech icons to get more involved than ever before, most prominently Apple CEO Tim Cook and Steve Jobs’ widow, Laurene Powell Jobs, a philanthropist and activist, as the era of Democratic resistance to giving massive donations to super PACs wanes.
But the $35 million from Moskovitz — who declined POLITICO’s request to talk about his political involvement — is far more than others have contributed, even though he wrote that such big donations to politics make him uncomfortable. And while top Democrats have developed close relationships with other Northern California luminaries as the community established itself as the party’s top money source, he has rarely been part of that circuit. (One email exchange released by WikiLeaks last week illustrates the dynamic: Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg in August 2015 asked Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta whether he would consider sitting down with Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg to discuss philanthropy and public policy, and Podesta agreed to set something up. Moskovitz’s name isn’t in any of the hacked Podesta emails.)
The sudden cash injection was unprecedented.
People familiar with Moskovitz’s thinking say he had been inching toward politics after focusing primarily on philanthropy for years. But whether he joins the ranks of Tom Steyer or Haim Saban as top Democratic donors, or even becomes an Eric Schmidt-like ally to party leaders, local and national fundraisers are reluctant to guess. Read the whole thing