How Tech Companies Are Trying to Help Democrats Capture Congress in 2018

Lauren Baer faces a tough task on Election Day: She’s a first-time Democratic candidate for Congress vying against a veteran Republican in “one of the swingiest swing districts” in southeastern Florida, as she puts it.

Like many in her party, Baer says she benefits from a secret weapon – one that is 2,500 miles away from her slice of the Sunshine State. In Silicon Valley, Baer is among a flood of candidates capitalizing on new apps, activist groups and other organizations that spawned after President Donald Trump’s 2016 victory with the explicit goal of triggering a Democratic wave this November.

As voters prepare to head to the polls, the tech industry’s talented, well-heeled engineers and entrepreneurs have been plugging into Democratic campaigns around the country. They’ve donated their time and money toward giving the party a digital edge, aiding the most distant local candidates and the Democrats’ more ambitious quest to snatch control of the U.S. Congress from Republicans’ grasp.

Many of these newly awakened tech workers are motivated by Trump’s controversial policies on issues including immigration, and they’re focused on closing what they perceive to be an innovation gap with the GOP, two years after Trump effectively tapped Facebook, Twitter and other data-heavy tools on his road to victory. One outgrowth of the Valley’s efforts, an app called MobilizeAmerica, has helped Baer find potential supporters in Florida’s 18th District, a chunk of the state about the size of Rhode Island. The app helped the campaign knock on more than 2,000 doors during a campaign event held a month before Election Day, aides said.

“After the 2016 election, I think we saw a number of individuals in the tech space, in Silicon Valley and also around the country, frankly saying they wanted to use technology for good,” said Baer, who stands to become Florida’s first openly lesbian representative in Congress if she wins. “And because of that, we’ve seen a proliferation of new tools.”

But Silicon Valley’s heightened attention to politics – and its commitment to aiding mostly Democrats – could saddle the tech industry with a new headache in the nation’s capital, where Trump and his GOP allies have alleged that tech giants are biased against the right. On Tuesday, Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, Brad Parscale, accused Facebook and Google of “ramping up their purge of conservatives” ahead of the midterms.

“While the tech giants, which have deep liberal bias throughout their personnel and practices, place a thumb on the scale against conservatives online, we are undaunted,” a spokeswoman for the Trump campaign said this week. “We will continue to build our database of millions of supporters and are confident that they will turn out and deliver victory for the GOP on Election Day.”

Democrats’ new start-ups and other organizations have attracted high-profile investments from some of the tech industry’s deepest pockets, including Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn. They’re seeking more than the next great political app: If Democrats succeed on Nov. 6, the tools they funded could be a boon that lasts beyond the midterms – giving the party a technological advantage in its coming rematch against Trump.

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SOURCE: Tony Romm
The Washington Post