The Democrats' Koch brothers? Meet the Facebook co-founder whose $35 million bet against Donald Trump

Move over Peter Thiel, Dustin Moskovitz has just emerged as one of Silicon Valley’s biggest political mega-donors

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published October 25, 2016 1:25PM (EDT)

Donald Trump   (Getty/Mandel Ngan/AP/Matt Rourke)
Donald Trump (Getty/Mandel Ngan/AP/Matt Rourke)

Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy has activated a major new Democratic mega-donor who has seemingly come out of nowhere to spend millions to block the Republican presidential nominee from winning the White House. 

Just one month after making a surprise $20 million cash infusion to various Democratic groups, Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz announced plans to catapult into the top echelon of Democratic super donors with an additional $15 million contribution to defeat Trump.

Politico reported Monday that Moskovitz donations came "suddenly and without any advance warning to the top rung of Democratic party megadonors with two unheralded tears through his checkbook in the past six weeks."

Moskovitz, who left Facebook and is now co-founder of Asana, a project management app, first announced his initial $20 million donation in a blog post on Medium in September.

“The Republican Party, and Donald Trump in particular, is running on a zero-sum vision, stressing a false contest between their constituency and the rest of the world. We believe their positions, especially on immigration, which purport to improve the lives of Americans, would in practice hurt citizens and non-citizens alike. In contrast, the Democratic Party, and Hillary Clinton in particular, is running on a vision of optimism, pragmatism, inclusiveness and mutual benefit,” Moskovitz wrote. In the Medium post explaining his and wife Cari Tuna’s decision, Moskovitz called Trump’s promises “quite possibly a deliberate con, an attempt to rally energy and support without the ability to deliver. His proposals are so implausible that the nation is forced to worry that his interest in the presidency might not even extend beyond winning a contest and promoting his personal brand."

In October, Moskovitz wrote that he planned an additional $15 million donation to anti-Trump groups and non-partisan groups “in support of work targeting millennial and independent voters.” The money will be split among several organizations, including the League of Conservation Voters, For Our Future political action committee, and the pro-Clinton super PAC Priorities USA — who all received $5 million.

But despite Moskovitz's large investment into Democratic electoral efforts, Democrats shouldn't be quick to get excited at the possibility of a progressive counterbalance to the likes of GOP megadonors like David and Charles Koch or Sheldon Adelson. The 32-year-old Moskovitz, who is reportedly worth more than $12.5 billion, has only ever made one other political donation before 2016, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.  In 2014, Moskovitz donated roughly $10,000 to support the failed House bid of Sean Eldridge, the husband of Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes. With his first contribution of $20 million, Moskovitz, who became the youngest self-made billionaire in history when Facebook went public, instantly became the third largest publicly-disclosed donor in the 2016 election cycle.

“This decision was not easy, particularly because we have reservations about anyone using large amounts of money to influence elections,” Moskovitz and Tuna wrote.

Democratic strategist Chris Lehane told Politico that Moskovitz's move this year is highly unusual and shouldn't get Democrats too excited. "This is a unicorn-type campaign gift — you just don't see someone basically walk into a campaign without a significant track record of activity and contribute at this level."

For his part, Moskovitz looks to finally be putting his money where is mouth is. In a tweet last week, Moskovitz argued that “Trump is exposing the very worst parts of our society, but also revealing the very best. If our democracy survives, it will be stronger.” In July, he was one of 145 signatories to an open letter from tech leaders saying Trump would be “a disaster for innovation.” With his contributions and political statements,Moskovitz has emerged as one of Trump's most unlikely and consequential political foes. 

So while Facebook investor Peter Thiel, who is also the founder of Paypal, has donated $1.25 million in support of Trump, Moskovitz has used his Facebook funds to send a clear signal that Silicon Valley doesn't want a disruptor like "The Donald." 

Watch Moskovitz discuss his anti-Trump giving below, via CNBC:

By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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