Why Silicon Valley will breathe a sigh of relief if Kamala Harris enters the White House

Linda J. Dodson

Harris, after all, is a native daughter of the area, born and raised in Oakland, a city just across the bay from San Francisco. She has close connections with the great and good of the industry that has made the region wealthy and powerful. 

California has never sent a Democrat to the presidential election before, so there is some local pride involved. But her record also shows a willingness to compromise with Big Tech and very little of the fire shown by Warren and other prominent Democrats.

Friends in high places – and a lot of cash

“Kamala Harris was attorney general [of California] while Facebook was acquiring WhatsApp and Instagram, and while it was solidifying this monopolistic position that it holds now in social media,” says Max Moran, a tech policy researcher at the Left-wing Centre for Economic and Policy Research (CESR) in Washington, DC.

Those mergers are now under the national spotlight, with Zuckerberg hauled in front of Congress earlier this month to answer questions about market dominance. Harris’s colleagues repeatedly grilled him about emails suggesting he had bought the apps to kill them as competitors – but Harris had the power to regulate him at the time.

“Rather than take that obligation seriously she was relying on many of these people for fundraising,” says Moran. “She was building relationships with them, helping some of their executives promote their books.”

That is a reference to Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s long-serving chief operating officer. Harris is a longtime friend and appeared at the company’s headquarters in 2015 to give a talk about cyberbullying, publicly praising tech firms’ efforts to tackle the issue. 

Meanwhile, Uber and other “gig economy” companies such as Airbnb now face a lawsuit from California’s current attorney general for failing to comply with a law restricting their use of private contractors, designed explicitly to outlaw their business model. That model emerged during Harris’s tenure.

As it happens, Uber’s chief legal officer Tony West is married to Harris’s sister, Maya. There is no evidence that the relationship influenced Harris’s decisions, and she has publicly backed California’s anti-Uber law, but will voters see it that way?

Meanwhile Rebecca Prozan, who managed Harris’s breakthrough 2003 campaign to be San Francisco’s chief prosecutor, is now Google’s head lobbyist for the state of California. 

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