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Obama mines Silicon Valley

U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg during a town hall meeting April 20, 2011 at Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif.

Kai Ryssdal: President Obama comes out here to California tomorrow. He'll be in the San Francisco Bay Area raising money for his reelection campaign.

Why the Bay Area? 'Cause that's where the money is. Silicon Valley, in particular -- millionaires and billionaires from high-tech and venture capital. From Washington, Marketplace's David Gura reports.


David Gura: President Obama kicks things off in Atherton, Calif. That’s just up the road from Stanford, and right next door to Menlo Park, home to Facebook headquarters. Lisa and Doug Goldman are throwing a dinner party for the president. (They’re Bay Area philanthropists.) And a ticket to that dinner costs $35,800.

Kathy Kiely: Then, there’s a Redwood City reception, where the cheap seats are $1,000, but you can pay up to $12,500 to go in.

That’s Kathy Kiely. She works for the Sunlight Foundation. Kiely keeps tabs on political fundraisers, and she says candidates -- especially presidential candidates -- know California has a lot of money.

Kieley: Within California, Silicon Valley has become one of the most popular destinations, because it’s where a lot of mega money is. Even with Facebook down a few dollars a share.

Over the last couple of decades, the place has changed and so have its politics. There are fewer Republicans than there used to be.

Billionaire Marc Benioff is the CEO of Salesforce.com and he co-chairs President Obama’s reelection campaign. This is his sense of Silicon Valley today:

Marc Benioff: I think it’s about a third Democratic, a third Independent, and a third Republican.

And the relationship between Silicon Valley and the government is also different. Jim Cunneen is with California Strategies, and he is a former Republican representative to the California State Assembly.

Jim Cunneen: Technology companies in general, Silicon Valley in particular, are playing big in Washington.

And that’s made entrepreneurs and executives more interested in politics, and more willing to contribute to campaigns.

In Washington, I'm David Gura for Marketplace. 

About the author

David Gura is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the Washington, D.C. bureau.

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