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Politics & Policy

Meet tech’s biggest Trumper: How David Sacks became the GOP’s Silicon Valley money man

A fundraiser for the former President on Thursday represents a coming-out party for SF's loudest conservative.

A caricature of David Sacks kneeling and kissing the hand of Donald Trump seated on a throne, set against a cartoon cityscape with skyscrapers and cloudy sky.
David Sacks is part of a growing list of tech entrepreneurs in the Bay Area who unabashedly support Donald Trump for president. | Source: AI illustration by Jesse Rogala/The Standard

Donald Trump’s planned appearance at a San Francisco fundraiser this Thursday won’t just inspire protests and ridicule in this arch-liberal city. 

It’ll also be a coming-out party for the former president’s host, David Sacks, who has seized the mantle as the loudest and proudest conservative in San Francisco. Sacks and his wife, Jacqueline, will roll out the red carpet for the soiree, with top tickets to enter the couple’s posh Pacific Heights mansion reportedly going for $500,000 for couples. According to the New York Times, 25 people are expected to attend dinner at the Sacks home, while another 50 will attend a reception.

Venture capitalist David Sacks will host a presidential campaign fundraiser for Donald Trump at his $20 million home (center, white) in San Francisco. | Source: Noah Berger for The Standard

For Trump, the timing is ideal. Coming off the fresh humiliation of 34 felony convictions for falsifying records to cover up a sex scandal involving a porn star, he has yet to be sentenced, and can still travel outside the state of New York.

He gets to bask in the warm embrace of Sacks and a growing tribe of moneyed Silicon Valley conservatives who have bridled publicly at the Biden Administration’s policies on antitrust, inflation, the environment, Covid, Ukraine, China, TikTok, AI regulation, immigration and more. 

And for Sacks, he gets to enjoy a proximity to power that he has long lusted after. With the possible exception of friend Elon Musk, no one has pushed back against progressive politicians more often or noisily than Sacks, a venture capitalist, podcast host and former tech CEO. Though he previously backed other Republican and independent candidates over Trump, Sacks has recently gone full MAGA, declaring his unwavering support for the indictment-plagued ex-president.

Harmeet Dhillon, a Republican Party official and attorney who represented Trump in a successful defamation suit against Stormy Daniels—the same porn star whose hush money payment resulted in 34 guilty verdicts—said she is attending Sacks’ fundraiser and is “much more proud” to support Trump after his conviction.

That sentiment seems to be shared by Sacks and an increasingly vocal cast of Bay Area-based venture capitalists. “After Biden’s disastrous presidency, Trump has a lot of supporters in Silicon Valley,” Sacks wrote less than an hour after the guilty verdict. “Many are just afraid to admit it.” 

Tech’s new biggest Trumper

A two-time startup CEO, Sacks is managing director of the venture capital firm Craft Ventures and a member of the so-called PayPal Mafia, an influential alumni network that includes billionaires Peter Thiel, Reid Hoffman, Max Levchin and Musk. His public profile has risen in step with the popularity of “All-In,” a tech-and-politics podcast he hosts with three fellow investors, including Chamath Palihapitiya, who will also be co-chair of this week’s fundraiser. Neither Sacks nor Palihapitiya responded to requests for comment. 

Sacks’s political activism dates back to his time at Stanford University, where he courted controversy as an editor of the right-wing Stanford Review, and mined that experience for a book, “The Diversity Myth: Multiculturalism and Political Intolerance on Campus,” which he co-wrote with Thiel.

A notorious passage in the book dismissed date rape as “seductions that were later regretted,” a line that Sacks would later apologize for writing. In 2005, Sacks helped produce the film “Thank You For Smoking,” based on the satirical novel by Christopher Buckley.

A man in a black blazer with a microphone headset is talking passionately on stage with TechCrunch logos in the background.
David Sacks has accumulated no shortage of critics for his political stances, which is one thing he shares in common with Donald Trump. | Source: Steve Jennings/TechCrunch/Getty

In 2012, Sacks made headlines for throwing himself a Marie Antoinette-themed 40th birthday party at a mansion in Los Angeles. It doubled as a celebration of his fifth anniversary with his wife, Jacqueline, CEO of a startup clothing brand called Saint Haven. She has published several video clips previewing a podcast of her own called “Blindspot,” focusing on “a range of issues that humanity is facing—from AI and singularity to parenting, relationships and the death of religion to name a few.” 

In recent years, David Sacks has become more closely aligned with Musk as the Tesla and SpaceX billionaire has taken a hard rightward turn. He reportedly played a role in convincing Musk to buy Twitter and was heavily involved in transforming the company following his takeover. The two recently co-hosted an “anti-Biden dinner” at Sacks’s house in Los Angeles for a list of guests that included Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch and former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick.

Kara Swisher, the longtime tech journalist and podcast host who authored “Burn Book: A Tech Love Story,” said that Sacks is among the tech elite who “want to spend a very small amount of money to buy influence and seem as if they are more important.”

She added, “Politicians are very cost-effective in that regard.”

A San Francisco-based tech executive and investor who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that Sacks is hosting the Trump fundraiser “because it’s controversial.”

A luxurious neighborhood with elegant houses and manicured gardens. In the background, there's a scenic view of a bay with hills and a red bridge.
David Sacks’ mansion in Pacific Heights is scheduled to host Donald Trump for a fundraiser dinner just one week after the former president was found guilty of falsifying records. | Source: Noah Berger for The Standard

“He’s not a mastermind like Peter Thiel who is grooming the political right to take over these swing states,” the source said. “David Sacks is more about branding himself.”

In fact, he has been notably flexible in his political preferences. Over the last year, Sacks has held fundraisers or contributed money to help advance the candidacies of Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Despite his past embrace of the 45th president’s rivals for the nomination, like almost all leading Republicans, he doubled down after last week’s guilty verdict, saying the conviction would ultimately propel Trump come November.

For all he amplifies right-wing talking points about everything from the origins of Covid to border security, Sacks prefers to be seen as pragmatic rather than ideological. He donated $70,000 to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election and declared Trump non-viable as a future candidate after the U.S. Capitol riot on Jan 6, 2021. 

a side by side of President Joe Biden, left, and Donald Trump, right.
President Joe Biden is lagging begind Donald Trump in most polls for November's election, despite the latter being convicted of 34 felonies. | Source: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP Photo; Andrew Harnik/AP Photo

While his critique of Biden has been broad, within the tech world, Sacks has focused his pitch on the president’s supposed hostility to startups and technological innovation. In particular, he’s warned that a proposed tax on unrealized stock gains represents a threat to “the whole way Silicon Valley works.” He’s also taken issue with how Biden has used the Federal Trade Commission to discourage large acquisitions and directed the Securities and Exchange Commission to scrutinize cryptocurrency. 

Alarmed at the way such views have been spreading among the Silicon Valley elite, venture capitalist and longtime Democratic donor Ron Conway has in recent days been attempting to dissuade some invitees from attending Sacks’ Thursday fundraiser for Trump, The Standard has learned.

Conway could not be reached for comment, but a source familiar with the conversations said he has argued that the grave threat Trump poses to American democracy ought to outweigh more self-interested concerns.

‘The one decent part remaining of San Francisco’

Outside of his mansion in Pacific Heights’ Billionaire’s Row, Sacks is a commercial landlord in San Francisco with three properties in Jackson Square, including 243 Vallejo St., 584 Pacific Ave. and 855 Front St., which functions as the headquarters of his VC firm Craft Ventures.

“I only own buildings in Jackson Square, which is like the one decent part remaining of San Francisco, which is actually where people want to be,” he said in an All-in podcast episode last November.

Sacks is also a limited partner in local real estate investment and development firms with major holdings in the Northern Waterfront. “If you’re willing to have a longer-term outlook—like five or 10 years—then there’s a pretty good chance that it’ll come back somehow,” Sacks said of the neighborhood on his podcast. “I think one of the things that has to happen in order to foster that demand is for there to be some fundamental changes in the politics of the city.”

Sacks’s local political activity has been relatively muted compared to his outspoken stances on national and foreign affairs. He contributed $75,000 to help lay the groundwork for the successful 2022 recall of former District Attorney Chesa Boudin, and he gave a similar amount to support the recall of three San Francisco school board members that same year. He also donated $140,000 to the 2021 campaign to recall Gavin Newsom, despite having contributed $58,000 to his election campaign four years earlier.

Chesa Boudin in a dark suit and tie holds a microphone, standing under warm lighting, with leafy green plants in the background. He appears to be speaking or addressing an audience.
Former San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin was recalled by a well-funded operation that included $75,000 in contributions by venture capitalist David Sacks. | Source: Camille Cohen/The Standard

Richie Greenberg, a conservative political operative and activist journalist, ran the first Boudin recall effort and called Sacks a “sensible, level-headed nice guy.”

“He didn’t do anything policy-wise, or say you should do this or don’t do that,” Greenberg said regarding the anti-Boudin contribution. “There was no direction or management at all. It was just, ‘here’s the funds,’ and that’s it.”

That hands-off approach no longer seems to be the case as Sacks goes all-in for Trump.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the address of Craft Ventures’ headquarters and incorrectly stated that Jacqueline Sacks had published three podcasts, while she had published several video clips previewing a podcast.