Meet The 20 Tech Insiders Defining The 2016 Campaign

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Folks this is the game changer right here. And after the 2016 Convention in Philadelphia the Battle Ground States will feel the Power !


  • Date of Publication: 01.19.16. 01.19.16
  • Time of Publication: 6:50 am. 6:50 am


Look—we have no idea how this election will turn out. President Trump? Cruz? Clinton? Rubio? Sanders? Fiorina? If we could tell you where things will stand in November, we damn sure wouldn’t be editing a magazine. But we do know this: 2016 is the election when Silicon Valley—its players, its policy priorities, and, oh yes, its money—finally upstages the old 20th-­century power structure and seizes control of the political game. Of course, tech has been shifting the terrain in ways large and small for a while now. Where would a candidate’s op-research/rapid-­response team be without analytics apps? What might have happened if that video of Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” had never shown up? And then, of course, there’s Barack Obama. Eight years ago, he harnessed data tracking and social media to fuel a next-­generation political machine that rewrote the rules of campaigning and rocketed him to the White House. Since then, every politician has learned what every startup knows in its bones: You live and die by software. But in 2016, the power players in Silicon Valley are beginning to confidently wield their tremendous economic resources and social influence—Google is one of the top lobby­ists in the country—and as we know, in American politics, money is power. Tech also has the data, and data is the lifeblood of campaigns. Finally, tech controls the new means of communication, from Twitter to Snapchat to Facebook. Political narratives are no longer limited to—or even primarily told through—TV networks and major newspapers (if such things even really still matter). Together these forces give the titans of Silicon Valley outsize clout in the political world. Related Stories Political Campaigns Are Wasteful—So Turn Them Into Startups Issie Lapowsky Political Campaigns Are Wasteful—So Turn Them Into Startups DOD Head Ashton Carter Enlists Silicon Valley to Transform the Military Jessi Hempel DOD Head Ashton Carter Enlists Silicon Valley to Transform the Military The GOP Has a Tech Talent Problem It Might Not Solve Issie Lapowsky The GOP Has a Tech Talent Problem It Might Not Solve As for the issues? Well those are taking on familiar themes as well. Whether it’s Hillary Clinton’s push to defend the US from Chinese cyberwarriors, Bernie Sanders’ critique of labor practices in the age of Uber, Ted Cruz’s proposals to balance privacy with government surveillance (don’t get us started on Carly Fiorina’s ham-handed suggestion that Silicon Valley needs to get in line with government requests for cooperation), or even Elon Musk warning us about the imminent rise of the machines, one thing is clear: The political landscape has shifted. Along with that, the nature of power itself is changing. When Mark Zuckerberg stumps for immigration reform, chats up the president of China—in Mandarin—or announces that he’s going to use his $45-billion fortune to rethink “society,” that is power. When an Instagram post by Kimye endorsing Hillary Clinton gets almost a million likes, well, that is power. This is the year in which tech—its interests and, most important, the money behind those interests—will shape the election. To show you how, and to help you keep score at home, we’ve identified the insiders who make up the new power elite. Politics will never be the same. —Michael Hainey


THE WIRED POLITICAL POWER LIST Silicon Valley’s 20 most influential insiders.


20 Linda Moore

Age: 54 Party: Democrat Claim to power: Broadening the reach of tech’s most powerful advocacy group Famous friend: Hillary Clinton Moore honed her political chops as deputy political director in Bill Clinton’s White House and was director of congressional affairs for Hillary’s 2008 primary run.

In 2014 she became president and CEO of Technet. When Kleiner Perkins’ John Doerr and Cisco’s John Chambers founded the advocacy group in the late ’90s, they were looking to convince policy­makers of the importance of tech. Since then, the bipartisan organization has grown to become the Valley’s strongest fundraising network and lobbying voice in Washington, backed by Micro­soft, Google, Apple, and others. Moore will make sure the presidential candidates get the Valley’s point of view on issues like immigration of skilled workers and cybersecurity. Under her leadership, Technet has also gotten involved at the state level on STEM education and the regulatory issues faced by Lyft and Uber. —Jessi Hempel



19 Lincoln Labs  Garrett Johnson

Age: 31 Party: Republican Claim to power: Tech entrepreneur; worked for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; cofounder of Lincoln Labs Aaron Ginn Age: 27 Party: Republican Claim to power: Helped on Romney’s 2012 campaign, whose tech struggles led Ginn to cofound Lincoln Labs Chris Abrams Age: 29 Party: Republican Claim to power: Chief technologist and cofounder of Lincoln Labs Silicon Valley can be cruel to conservatives, and conservatives can be dismissive of tech. Which is why, shortly after Mitt Romney lost in 2012, Abrams, Ginn, and Johnson—all working in the Valley at the time—launched a community for techie conservatives to come out of hiding. Lincoln Labs pushes for policies like patent reform and reducing regulatory burdens. It also tries to find and foster tech­nologists who will aid con­servative causes. —Issie Lapowsky


18 Alex Skatell 

Age: 26 Party: None declared Claim to power: Founded the social news powerhouse Independent Journal Future claim to power: Cohosting February’s Republican Primary Debate in New Hampshire Not long ago, politicians appeared in viral videos only when they made some career-threatening gaffe. But in this election cycle, videos are everywhere. Lindsey Graham smashing a cell phone! Ted Cruz frying bacon on the muzzle of a gun! Those were the work of Skatell’s Independent Journal, a millennial-targeting social news site for “the rest of the country”—rural and suburban areas that he says are underserved by the Voxes and Buzzfeeds of the world. Skatell likens the clips to a talk show appearance: “It’s a modern-day interview where you show instead of tell.” Here’s what makes them go viral (in a good way): Be relevant. When Graham destroyed his phone after Trump publicized his number, it was the next beat in an unfolding story. Don’t over-­editorialize. The Cruz video didn’t offer an explicit opinion about his trigger-happiness—tempting other media outlets to pick up the clip and add their own take. Let humanity through. asked candidates to share their debate prep tips. “It showed something people hadn’t seen,” Skatell says. “The human side of running for office.” —Jason Tanz 



17 Zac Moffatt 

Age: 36 Party: Republican Claim to power: Cofounder of Targeted Victory Famous friend: Mitt Romney Moffatt freely admits that Republicans were late to digital campaigning. But as cofounder of the GOP’s leading analytics shop, Targeted Victory, he’s on the vanguard of the party’s catch-up effort. Moffatt got his start in politics at the local level, working on Michael Bloomberg’s 2001 campaign for mayor of New York City. By 2012 he was running Romney’s digital team, urging the campaign to invest in new technology. (Romney became a major buyer of Facebook’s mobile advertising in 2012.) With Targeted Victory, Moffatt is helping nearly all the GOP candidates crunch enormous amounts of data so they can better direct the billions they’ll spend on television ads this election season. —Issie Lapowsky


16  Rob Saliterman

Age: 33 Party: Republican Claim to power: Runs Snapchat’s political advertising division Past lives: Served as a spokesperson for George W. Bush; headed Google’s outreach to GOP campaigns If Saliterman has his way, John Kasich’s bacon-themed Snapchat ad will join Bill Clinton’s Arsenio appearance and Obama’s Facebook outreach as a landmark moment in presidential campaign history. The spot let New Hampshire Snapchatters add an overlay to their own Snaps—a version of Kasich’s logo rendered in bacon, beneath the greeting “Good morning New Hampshire!” (Ted Cruz and Rand Paul have bought Snapchat ads too.) Saliterman is charged with turning Snapchat into the next great political-ad medium, which means convincing candidates that the 100 million–user platform represents their best opportunity to reach millennials. Notori­ously fickle voters, they “are less likely to be persuaded by overly polished political ads,” Saliterman says. Just greasy ones, apparently. —Jason Tanz



15 Campaign Zero 

  Age: Brittany Packnett, 31; Samuel Sinyangwe, 25; Johnetta Elzie, 26; DeRay Mckesson, 30 Party: Not affiliated Claim to power: Founders of the Campaign Zero movement against police violence Most famous Twitter follower: Beyoncé The #BlackLivesMatter movement brought awareness to the deep-rooted problem of racially charged police violence in the US through a skilled synthesis of online and offline activism. Campaign Zero, started by a group of protesters and social media activists, is the next stage of that movement, and it’s commanding attention in the presidential campaign. The founders aim not just to raise awareness but to get laws enacted to end police brutality. The months-old group has held meetings with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, where its members have pushed the candidates to demilitarize the police, end private prisons, invest in black communities, and fund mental health programs. Campaign Zero’s founders are taking ideas long embraced by on-the-ground protesters and using the power of social media to persuade politicians to embrace those ideas, too. —Issie Lapowsky


14 David Plouffe & Chris Lehane 

  Age: 48 (both) Party: Democrats Claim to power: Former political operatives now helping Silicon Valley giants Uber and Airbnb bend government regulations to their will Two of Washington’s most formidable Democratic strategists are now schooling two of Silicon Valley’s hottest companies in the art of the spin. Here’s how they’ve wielded their abilities to win over hearts and minds—and fend off government controversy—on both coasts: Current regulation-­leery employers: Uber (Plouffe), Airbnb (Lehane). Political history: Plouffe was Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign manager before joining the White House in 2011 as senior adviser. Lehane spent more than six years in Bill Clinton’s White House, where he navigated a wave of controversies, including the Whitewater real estate scandal. ­ Biggest recent regulatory battle: Plouffe negotiated Uber’s win against New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, who had proposed a cap on the number of ride-­sharing vehi­cles last year. Under Lehane, Airbnb spent $8.4 million to help defeat Proposition F last November in San Francisco, which would have placed new restrictions on home-­sharing. Ties to 2016: Plouffe has endorsed Hillary Clinton, whom he fought against in the 2008 primaries. Lehane, a former aide to billionaire envi­ronmentalist Tom Steyer, is helping with Clinton’s fundraising in San Francisco. —Issie Lapowsky


13 Michael Palmer

AGE: 33 Party: Republican Claim to power: Founder of i360, a database of 250 million voter files Best frenemy: The RNC, which reportedly fought with i360 for control over GOP voter data but then signed a data-sharing deal The next time a campaign phone banker calls, don’t be surprised if they congratulate you on your new Subaru or share your enthusiasm for the Fargo season finale. Companies are pulling in consumer data, social network activity, and other information to build ever more sophisticated voter files. i360 is at the forefront of this trend, providing Republican candidates with not just a database but also analytics to help them make sense of it. Founded by Palmer in 2009, i360 gets tens of millions in funding from a group linked to the libertarian Koch brothers and may threaten traditional political parties. “If their file becomes powerful on the state of Kentucky, for example,” says David Rothschild, who studies polling at Microsoft Research, “and the Kochs can decide which candidate gets that data, it could make a huge difference.” —Jason Tanz Kimye_



12 Kimye35; Kanye, 38 Party: A Party of Their Own Claim to power: A combined 54.2 million followers on Twitter alone Political Ambitions: Watch the throne: Kanye has (sorta) announced a 2020 presidential run. This celebrity husband-­wife duo carries enormous potential influence. Kim Kardashian has an Instagram following of 55 million—more than a hundred times larger than the circulation of one of America’s most influential traditional media outlets, The Washington Post. Who needs an editorial endorsement from a newspaper like the Times or The Wall Street Journal when a selfie-­endorsement with Kimye can garner almost a million likes on Instagram, as it did for Hillary Clinton this summer? For a particular demographic, Kim can give a power-up to anyone and any product, and Kanye has built his own fervent following. The question now: When and for whom will they eventually unleash their Internet legions? —Michael Hainey



11 Joe Rospars  Age: 34 Party: Democrat Claim to power: CEO and founder of Blue State Digital Past life: Obama’s chief digital strategist in 2008 and 2012 Howard Dean’s scream didn’t lose him the 2004 presidential race, says Rospars, who worked as a writer on that campaign. Dean lost because his team lacked the tools to manage the outpouring of grassroots support he received. So when Rospars signed on to run the digital side of Barack Obama’s presidential bid in 2007, he was determined to avoid that mistake. The resulting campaign established a new model for retail politics, embracing then-young platforms like Facebook and posting some 2,000 videos to YouTube. In the process, Rospars took the political narrative out of the media’s hands and gave it directly to the public. In 2012 he worked his magic again for Obama’s reelection. Today, the digital-first techniques pioneered by Rospars’ company, Blue State Digital, are a must for candidates on both sides of the aisle. —Issie Lapowsky


10 Erin Hill 

Age 36 Party: Democrat Claim to power: Executive director of ActBlue, a nonprofit that powers one-click donations for Democrats First foray into politics: Knocking on doors to campaign for city council candidates at age 9 Hill learned the value of small donors while canvassing her hometown of Revere, Massachusetts, as a kid. Today, small donors are having a huge impact, and Hill’s nonprofit, ActBlue, is a big reason why. ActBlue has developed software that lets supporters donate with a single click. This election season, ActBlue’s technology has brought in millions of dollars for everyone from Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders to local school board candidates. Small donations, it turns out, can really add up. —Issie Lapowsky Susan_Molinari



9 Susan Molinari 

Age: 57 Party: Republican Claim to power: Vice president for public policy at Google Hero: Her father, Guy, a former member of the US House of Representatives Google doesn’t do anything small. The company dropped more than $13 million on lobbying in 2015, making it the 11th-largest spender in the country. Molinari helped direct this cash toward key issues for the company, like the ­battle to protect data security, legislative efforts to clamp down on patent trolls, and tax reform (we can all dream, right?). Molinari is comfortable in the GOP-­dominated halls of Congress: As the third generation of a powerful New York political family, she spent nearly five terms in the House after winning her father’s seat when he retired. A moderate Republican, Molinari moved on to lobbying full time in 2001. She joined Google in 2012 to help the company fend off critics (like the European Union) who view it as a monopoly that intrudes too far into our personal lives. —Jessi Hempel



8 Sheryl Sandberg

Age: 46 Party: Democrat Claim to power: The Facebook COO and founder of the workplace equality movement Lean In is expanding that campaign to military women. Famous friend: In an email to Hillary Clinton, she wrote, “The highlight of my last few weeks was not the filing of our S-1, but the invitation to have dinner with you.” Before her stints at Google and Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg was chief of staff to treasury secretary Lawrence Summers, so her Washington connections run deep. She is leveraging her influence with Lean In followers to mobilize female voters, and while Lean In is nonpartisan, Sandberg endorsed Clinton early. She has donated to ­Clinton’s campaign and also wrote a $30,000 check to the Women Vote! super PAC, which has ties to Emily’s List, an advocacy group for pro-choice Democratic women. —Jessi Hempel


7 John Leel

Age: 31 Party: Democrat Claim to power: Chief technology officer of NGP VAN, the Democrats’ nationwide voter database First gig in politics: Lee interned for John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign; his first tech breakthrough was teaching the staff how to use multiple browser tabs. Though its name is a bland alphabet soup, NGP VAN is one of the most exciting tech tools in US politics. Before this massive database on Democratic voters came along, political canvassers were flying blind. They’d knock on doors, talk up their candidates, jot down some notes, and move on. Today, thanks to NGP VAN—the product of a 2011 merger between NGP Software and the Voter Activation Network—campaign workers can collect, consolidate, and slice and dice voter data as they go door-to-door. Since VAN’s inception in 2001, this ­Salesforce-for-Democrats has become the lifeblood of the party. The data is so valuable, in fact, that when the Democratic National Committee blocked Bernie Sanders’ access to it following a breach by his staff late last year, his campaign was briefly crippled. As chief technology officer of NGP VAN, Lee may not have the sexiest job in politics, but it’s one of the most important in an election year when better technology will likely be synonymous with victory. —Issie Lapowsky


6 Aidan King & David Frederick 

Email Age: 24 and 33 Party: Democrats Claim to power: Inadvertent Hillary dethroners Day jobs: King works at a winery in Vermont; Frederick works at Crate & Barrel. The Democratic primaries were supposed to be little more than a chronicle of Hillary Clinton’s inexorable charge toward 2016. Instead, long-shot candidate Bernie Sanders had her running scared after her lead in New Hampshire was whittled down by King and Frederick, two dudes who started a ­Reddit forum for Sanders in 2013. They used the forum not just to spread the word about Sanders but also to generate small donations—small donations that have translated into big money (more than $500,000 from the Reddit forum so far). And King and Frederick have harnessed more than dollars: They have also used social media to energize volunteers, like the 100-plus Reddit readers who coded and built a website on Sanders’ positions. Cost to the candidate? $0. —­Michael Hainey


5 Larry Ellison 

Age: 71 Party: Republican Claim to power: One of the 10 richest people on the planet. Enough said. Current political kingdom: A Hawaiian island he bought for $300 million with the intent of creating his own society. If he can do it there, why not here? Larry Ellison is keeping his cards close to the vest. At least as close as the media and federal disclosure laws allow. Early on he seemed to be leaning toward Kentucky senator Rand Paul. But last summer, Ellison came out strong for wonder-boy senator Marco Rubio, hosting a $2,700-per-head big-­baller/bundler fundraiser and selfie session at his California compound for the Sunshine State’s non-Bush candidate. Ellison (who has also given to Democratic causes in the past) later shelled out $3 million to Rubio’s super PAC, dwarfing other major tech-world donors in the 2016 election. But that’s chump change for Ellison, and there’s no telling how much more he’s willing to throw down. Then again, high-flying payouts are no sure bet: He also gave $3 million to Mitt Romney’s PAC in 2012. —Michael Hainey Apex Donor Larry Ellison has given more to Marco Rubio’s PAC than Google and Facebook have given to all parties.


4 Stephanie Hannon

Age: 41 Party: Democrat Claim to power: Chief technology officer for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign Ground Game: Went door-to-door in Iowa to learn what volunteers experience In 2016, when the candidate with the best tech has a serious advantage, Hannon has the kind of résumé that makes Clinton opponents nervous. Before becoming chief technology officer for the Clinton campaign, she was director of product for civic innovation and social impact at Google, where she helped create Google Maps and Gmail. She also managed to fit in a stint at Facebook. In the world of campaigns, where tech talent is scarce, Hannon was a heavyweight hire. Now she’s tasked with bringing campaign tools up to Silicon Valley standards, and she has recruited a formidable team from the likes of Yelp and Google to help her do it. While working to get the first-ever female president elected, Hannon is making history herself as the first woman to lead a presidential campaign’s tech effort. —Issie Lapowsky


Justin_McConney3 Justin McConney 

Age: 29 Party: None declared Claim to fame: Introduced Donald Trump to social media Claim to infamy: See above In 2011, after serving as a video editor for the Trump-run Miss Universe pageant and The Apprentice, Justin McConney noticed his boss’s lackluster social media presence—no YouTube account, few followers on Twitter or Facebook—and convinced the Donald to hire him as director of new media. It was, to put it lightly, a pretty good idea. Trump has been described as a web-comments thread in human form, and he has ­single-handedly brought the Internet’s candor, bombast, and recklessness to the manufactured candor of the political process. Credit (or blame) McConney, who inspired Trump to master the dark arts of online communication, where winning primary votes isn’t all that different from winning Reddit up-votes: Tap into ­people’s lizard brains with outrageous humor and fear-mongering, and watch them roll in. —Jason Tanz Social Media Trumps All Donald Trump now has more Twitter followers than the former secretary of state. 



  2 Mark Zuckerberg 

Email Age: 31 Party: None declared Claim to power: Founded Facebook, which now has more than 1 billion daily users The Bottom Line: Ben Carson’s campaign has run so many Facebook ads that it was mentioned on an earnings call. Zuckerberg embodies the Silicon Valley tendency to back issues, not candidates. In December he launched the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, seeded with 99 percent of his Facebook shares, currently worth more than $45 billion. By setting up as a limited liability company, it can lobby for legislation and influence public policy. Meanwhile, his advocacy group spent nearly half a million dollars in 2015 pushing immigration reform. Facebook itself spent nearly $8 million on lobbying in 2015. And, of course, the social network gives campaigns unprecedented voter-targeting ability and is driving the shift of advertising dollars from TV to digital. Zuckerberg himself hasn’t backed a presidential candidate. As he said in September 2013, “It’s hard to affiliate as either Democrat or Repub­lican—I’m pro knowledge economy.” —Jessi Hempel



1 Eric Schmidt 

Age: 60 Party: Democrat Claim to Power: Executive chair of Alphabet, née Google Famous Friends: Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Barack Obama. NBD. It’s hard to find a corner of the political landscape that Eric Schmidt hasn’t touched. In 2008, while CEO of Google, he stumped for Obama. He’s been a fixture in the White House as a tech adviser to the president, and he filled a similar role in Obama’s 2012 campaign. Today Schmidt is the one Silicon Valley titan who’s also a total DC insider, and he’s throwing his weight behind startups like Civis Analytics that are working to get Hillary Clinton elected. Oh, and he’s also chair of Alphabet, a company that spends more on lobbying than almost any other. Schmidt may no longer lead ­Google day-to-day, but he’s better positioned than ever to take action on the issues the company—and Silicon Valley—care about, such as privacy, patent reform, and net neutrality. In an industry that often views government warily, Schmidt keeps his ostensible enemies close—so close they look like friends. —Issie Lapowsky


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