Silicon Valley's leaders usually do a good job finding things to agree on (regulations: bad; disruption: good; workplace diversity: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯). But when it comes to campaign finance reform, the tech industry can't make up its damn mind. While Bay Area billionaires are financing super PACs focused on getting money out of politics, they're simultaneously spending millions on their favorite candidates and parties.
When San Francisco began considering legalizing Airbnb, the flourishing startup was quick to ingrain itself in the political process. Airbnb's lobbyists secretly helped author favorable legislation, then created an astroturfing organization to strike down the sections they didn't like. And now that the legislation has passed, Airbnb's investors are rewarding their City Hall stooge with a smear campaign against his electoral opponent.
The story of how a young programmer named Aaron Swartz convinced celebrated academic Lawrence Lessig that no political progress could be made without first reforming campaign finance is now part of Silicon Valley lore. In May, Lessig launched a radical initiative to address the issue: MAYDAY, a SuperPAC that secured funding from two Silicon Valley billionaires in order to curtail the influence of big money.