Silicon Valley has given tens of thousands to Republican organizations that back pro-gun politicians

By Steven Melendez

May 26, 2022

Tech companies often come under criticism for hosting extremist content that inspires mass shooters. But many big Silicon Valley names, and affiliated political action committees, have also donated directly and indirectly to politicians that support limited gun restrictions. That comes as U.S. gun deaths vastly exceed those of other rich nations, a disparity that’s owed in large part to lax gun regulations.

While tech execs, when they do speak out, often favor gun control, companies donate to both sides of the political aisle, including politicians that support easing gun laws and groups that support them, like the National Republican Senatorial Committee and National Republican Congressional Committee. The NRSC and NRCC have both used gun control opposition to drum up voter support, and Republicans like Texas Senator Ted Cruz have said gun regulation isn’t the solution. (On the other hand, while there are some Democrats opposed to stricter gun control measures, party leaders including New York Senator Chuck Schumer have called for increased gun control measures following the recent deadly shooting in a Texas elementary school).

As the Washington Post pointed out in January, for instance, Google’s affiliated NetPAC has given contributions to politicians from both parties, including individual candidates as well as $30,000 each to the NRSC and NRCC in the past year. The company also made similar donations to their Democratic counterparts. That’s far from atypical: Similar contributions have come from other tech companies or their affiliated PACs, including Oracle, AT&T, and Comcast. None of the companies responded to Fast Company‘s request for comment.

Elon Musk has over the years personally taken the same tack: data from the Center for Responsive Politics shows the Tesla and SpaceX head has given to both parties’ Congressional committees over the years, as well as to individual politicians from both parties. Musk recently said he plans to “vote Republican” in the future, though he reportedly told CNBC he supports “tight background checks” and limitations on assault weapons sales. In the past, SpaceX’s PAC has given to politicians from both parties, as well as to their Congressional and Senatorial Committees, according to federal campaign finance data. SpaceX didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry from Fast Company.

Apple doesn’t have a PAC or make corporate contributions. But CEO Tim Cook has in the past called for action on gun control. He’s also given to candidates from both major political parties in the past, including holding fundraisers for then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (who supported some gun restrictions, including the assault weapons ban) and then-House speaker Paul Ryan (who generally opposed gun control measures) in 2016. Apple didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry from Fast Company.

Of course, some tech leaders have taken lead roles in supporting gun control. Michael Bloomberg is probably the best-known example, having given heavily to support candidates who back gun regulations.

But often, execs’ and companies’ contributions to politicians and committees appears to be largely independent of their stance on gun policy, likely focusing on political decisions that have more direct effects on the bottom line and are less likely to alienate vocal consumers. Even after the shooting at YouTube headquarters in 2018, many big tech execs expressed sympathy for the victims without explicitly weighing in on the gun control debate.

And when companies give contributions to both parties, even if they don’t donate to individual candidates, some of those funds still wind up supporting candidates staunchly opposed to gun control.