Warren took tech’s money while ripping its biggest players

While Sen. Elizabeth Warren was railing against big tech companies, she was taking their money — plenty of it.

The Massachusetts Democrat, who is powering her presidential campaign with a bold proposal to break up the likes of Amazon, Google and Facebook, in September accepted a $2,700 contribution from Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer. But Sandberg, whose donation went unnoticed at the time, was just the biggest name from Silicon Valley to give to the senator: Warren took at least $90,000 from employees of Amazon, Google and Facebook alone between 2011 and 2018.

The figure includes only donors who gave at least $200 over either of her two Senate campaigns; and just those who listed their employer. Warren is carrying over millions of dollars she raised for the Senate in the last cycle to her 2020 presidential run.

While the donations flowed to Warren’s committee, she was accusing Google, Amazon as well as Apple of using their powerful platforms to “lock out smaller guys and newer guys,” including direct competitors. She’s also criticized the huge sums Silicon Valley firms spend on federal lobbying and taken on Amazon and others over their treatment of workers.COUNTDOWN TO 2020

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Now, Warren has put the trust-busting message front and center in her presidential campaign. In a blog post last week, which she repeatedly referred to at the tech industry conference South by South last weekend in Austin, Texas, Warren called for unwinding Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp and Instagram; Amazon’s consumption of Whole Foods and Zappos; and Google’s takeovers of Waze, Nest and DoubleClick. Warren later confirmed that her plan would apply to Apple, the biggest player in tech and one of the world’s biggest companies.

“Either they run the platform or they play in the store,” she said over the weekend. “They don’t get to do both at the same time.”

At the same time, Warren hasn’t weaned herself off of tech employee money — or their services. Warren’s campaign, for example, continues to buy ads through Facebook, and her books are still on Amazon.

Her reliance on the massive companies underscore tech’s pervasiveness in politics and society at large, but also politicians’ unwillingness to separate themselves from its legion of employees who give money. In 2016, one of Warren’s current presidential competitors, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), received $361,000 from employees of Google’s parent company, Alphabet; $170,000 from employees of Microsoft; $132,000 from Apple employees; and $106,000 from Amazon employees.

Sanders, who has targeted much of his energy at Amazon’s labor practices rather than antitrust, had no comment through his Senate office on Warren’s plan.

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Others, like Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who has also taken money from tech executives, oppose Warren’s breakup plan before seeing results of an investigation to determine if such steps are needed.

Asked Monday, the Warren campaign, which has sworn off traditional big donor fundraisers and phone calls, would not say whether she will decline donations from tech employees going forward.

“She doesn’t take PAC money and federal lobbyist money. She isn’t holding high-dollar fundraisers where people can buy access. She’s not auditioning for billionaires to start super PACs. And she is proposing breaking up some of the biggest tech companies in the country,” Warren spokeswoman Kristen Orthman told POLITICO. “Clearly, she’s not influenced by their money.”

In a Sunday interview with CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Warren herself refused to say if she bars tech executives or employees from giving to her.

“Look, nobody has been beating down the door,” Warren said. “But let me be clear, I’m not in Washington to work for billionaires. I’m in Washington to help level the playing field so that everybody gets a chance to get out there and compete.”

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Warren added she’s been told by young tech entrepreneurs in Austin that they merely want a chance to get in the game.

Representatives for Amazon, Facebook and Google declined comment on their employee donations to Warren.

Warren’s critics in tech see her argument as flawed, saying there has to be some harm to consumers in order justify antitrust action.

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