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Buttigieg Courts Big Tech Billionaires As Other Candidates Torpedo Silicon Valley

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Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg is quietly courting wealthy big tech tycoons while many of his opponents are etching out a much more belligerent position against Silicon Valley.

Buttigieg has five fundraising events in San Francisco and the Silicon Valley area, media reports show, with most of the events expected to net the young presidential candidate thousands of dollars. He intends on hitting up money from the biggest tycoons that the Bay Area has to offer.

He’s visiting the area on Friday for a fundraiser hosted by an executive from LiveRamp, a technology and data company based in San Francisco, and later in the day the 37-year-old Democrat will meet Michelle Sandberg, the sister of Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, for another fundraiser. Quora co-founder and former Facebook engineer Charlie Cheever will also be attending the soiree.

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Buttigieg has also made a good impression with Facebook alum. “You have all these people who have spent years cultivating Silicon Valley, but yet clearly Pete is on fire,” Joe Green, an early Facebook adviser and mutual friend of CEO Mark Zuckerberg, told Vox Tuesday. “Somebody who has not been on the national fundraising circuit has really taken off.”

He’s raked in roughly $330,000 in itemized contributions from San Francisco in the first quarter of 2019, meaning 13 percent of his cash has come from that area, according to Vox. Buttigieg has crafted a more nuanced position on Facebook and others even as Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and other prominent Democrats are pushing and prodding the Federal Trade Commission to break up big tech.

Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Bernie Sanders of Vermont are also running on stinging Facebook. Both Democratic lawmakers are running against President Donald Trump in 2020 and are hoping to use antipathy against big tech to fortify their campaigns. Klobuchar made pledges to enact privacy laws and Sanders, for his part, complains about Amazon’s living wage.

Warren proposed in March a plan to impose new rules on tech companies with $25 billion or more in annual ad revenue, forcing Amazon and Google to dramatically reduce their hold on online commerce. Her plan, which effectively seeks to splinter social media companies, would also aim to curtail mergers between companies like Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram and WhatsApp.

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But Buttigieg is stamping down the harsh rhetoric, even if he’s flirted with the idea of imposing more burdensome rules on the industry.

“I think he’s taking those responsibilities seriously,” Buttigieg said about Zuckerberg during an interview on NPR in January. “But I think he’s also confronted — and every one of these big companies — with the reality that their corporate policy decisions are now public policy decisions. And I don’t know if he’s fully been able to master that, and I don’t know that anybody in the sector has.”

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