Apple Divests from Republican Convention Due to Trump's Rhetoric

The Republican presumptive nominee and the Silicon Valley tech giant's relationship has been rocky due to his anti-free trade, anti-immigration policies, as well as publicly calling to boycott Apple due to its stance on encryption.

by Matthew Artz, The Mercury News / June 21, 2016
Presumptive Republican Nominee, Donald Trump Flickr/Gage Skidmore

(TNS) -- Apple CEO Tim Cook is adding another concrete slab to the ever-growing wall between Silicon Valley and Donald Trump: His company won’t be participating in Trump’s coronation at the GOP convention, but he will be hosting a fundraiser next week for Republican House Speaker and frequent Trump critic Paul Ryan.

The decision, first reported by Politico and confirmed Monday by The Mercury News, separates Apple from other tech giants such as Facebook and Google that decided to play a role in the convention. With Trump firing his campaign manager Corey Lewandowski on Monday amid floundering poll numbers, analysts said that Apple’s move also illustrates a growing view among the tech elite that Trump will likely have about as much staying power as Windows Vista.

“I think it shows just what utter disdain executives at Apple have for Donald Trump,” said Bill Whalen, a former Republican operative and research fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution. “They are probably making the calculation that Donald Trump will not be a political factor come the first Wednesday in November, but Paul Ryan will still be speaker of the House.”

Trump’s stunning rise from reality TV star to Republican torchbearer has left many companies struggling with how to appear politically neutral while avoiding being too closely associated with Trump, whose comments about Muslims and Mexicans have led to charges of racism.

Several leading corporations have already either cut back their contributions or disassociated themselves from the Republican gala altogether.

Among companies that won’t be donating to this year’s GOP convention are JP Morgan Chase, which gave $200,000 in 2012; Wells Fargo, which gave $500,000; and Ford, which gave $100,000 in 2012, according to ColorOfChange, a civil rights group whose political action committee is pressuring corporations to boycott the convention. Coca-Cola, which gave $660,000 in 2012, is giving only $75,000 this year.

“This is not about left or right but about right and wrong,” said the political action committee’s spokesman, Rashad Robinson. “This is a unique once in a lifetime moment where you have someone at the top of the ticket who has made hateful and at times violence-inducing remarks at various communities.”

GOP spokeswoman Audrey Scagnelli declined to comment about Apple’s decision, but released a statement saying: “We are working with a variety of major tech partners who are focused on being part of the American political process.”

Trump has put tech companies in an especially difficult bind. Many have tried to improve ties to Republicans in recent years, but Trump’s anti-free trade, anti-immigration policies place him not only out of lock-step with his party but with an industry that relies on foreign workers and foreign trade.

Moreover, Trump has warred openly with tech leaders. He called for a boycott of Apple if the company didn’t relent to the FBI’s demand that it share its encryption technology, and accused Amazon of avoiding taxes.

“Trump’s rhetoric … seems to have put him at odds with many of Silicon Valley’s biggest donors and employers,” said Mason Harrison, political director of Crowdpac, a San Francisco-based group that tracks political contributions.

Through April this year, only seven San Francisco Bay Area contributors identified as tech workers gave a total of $1,020 to Trump’s campaign, the firm found. By comparison, Hillary Clinton had raised more than $1.6 million from 766 donors and Bernie Sanders has raised more than $1.3 million from 5,319 donors.

While Trump has barely solicited any donations, he’s still a long way from the $9 million that Mitt Romney collected from the technology sector when he ran in 2012, Harrison said.

Apple provided equipment to both party’s conventions in 2012 and 2008. The company declined to comment about its unwillingness to participate in this year’s Republican convention, but sources speaking on the condition of anonymity said the decision was based on Trump’s comments deemed insulting to women, immigrants and minorities.

Microsoft isn’t boycotting the Republican convention, but it will have a bigger presence at the Democratic gala in Philadelphia. Microsoft is providing products for both events, but is only sponsoring host committee activities for the Democrats, according to a statement by Fred Humphries, the company’s vice president of U.S. government affairs.

Google spokeswoman Riva Litman confirmed Monday that it is sticking by its commitment to be the official live-steam provider for the GOP convention.

As for Facebook, whose CEO Mark Zuckerberg has taken on Trump when it comes to immigration, the company is supporting both conventions equally.

“This support allows Facebook to facilitate an open dialogue among voters, candidates and elected officials during the convention.” spokeswoman Jodi Seth wrote in an email. “We believe encouraging this ongoing conversation is important because an informed debate about the candidates and the issues is essential to the democratic process.”

©2016 The Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.