Two tech titans who sit on the board of the Defense Innovation Board, an advisory group to the Pentagon, have contributed nearly $10 million this election cycle to liberal political groups, many of which oppose President Donald Trump, according to records filed with the Federal Election Commission.
One of those liberal megadonors, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, gave $750,000 last month to a political action committee founded by Obama campaign veterans that published an ad suggesting that Trump’s core base is made up of white nationalists and supporters of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The other, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, has been involved in several controversial political projects, including a campaign using fake social media personas to draw voters away from a Republican Senate candidate in a special election in Alabama in 2017.
The tech billionaires’ positions on the board raise questions about why two openly anti-Trump and anti-Republicans are on the board of a Pentagon advisory group during the Trump administration.
“Knowing that individuals who openly despise and undermine President Trump serve on those boards while only two of 15 people on our campaign’s national security advisory committee landed positions in the administration is nothing short of horrendous,” J.D. Gordon, who served as the Trump campaign’s national security adviser, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Gordon, who served as Pentagon spokesman for four years during the George W. Bush administration, said that advisory boards like DIB typically have little influence at the Pentagon. Nonetheless, he said, “membership was extremely valuable for career advancement, financial opportunities and other benefits.”
Ash Carter, the secretary of defense under President Barack Obama, created the DIB in March 2016 to advise the Pentagon on improving the use of technology systems across the military.
DIB’s mission statement says its aim is “to address future challenges in terms of integrated change to organizational structure and process, business and functional concepts, and technology applications.”
DIB, which is given a $600,000 annual budget, has 16 board members, mostly drawn from the tech industry. The board members are not paid, but they are considered “special government employees,” or SGEs.
Board members also include former Aspen Institute president, Walter Isaacson, a vocal Trump critic, and Neil deGrasse Tyson, a celebrity astrophysicist.
Under Schmidt’s direction, DIB has advised the Pentagon on the realignment of military bases across the globe and the use of artificial intelligence, The New York Times has reported.
Schmidt reportedly attempted to repair relations with Trumpworld following the 2016 election. Politico reported that Schmidt, who served as an informal tech adviser to the Clinton campaign, visited Trump Tower during the presidential transition period to meet with Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law. Axios reported that Schdmit visited the White House in January 2018, while he was still CEO of Alphabet, Inc., to meet with officials in the West Wing to discuss policy related to 5G technology.
Both Schdmit and Hoffman have made clear through their campaign donations that they hope Trump is voted out of office in November.
Hoffman has contributed more than $6.3 million liberal political groups and Democratic campaigns in the 2020 cycle.
FEC records show he contributed $1.5 million to Unite the Country, a political action committee that supports former Vice President Joe Biden. He also contributed $1,676,927 to the Democratic Grassroots Victory Fund.
Schdmit has contributed nearly $2.9 million to Democrat-aligned committees and campaigns, FEC records show.
His most recent contribution was $750,000 to Future Forward USA PAC on May 13.
In July 2018, the PAC published an ad entitled “Happy,” which depicted three separate groups supporting Trump.
“These people are happy with the direction of the country,” the ad says after showing groups of white supremacists, wealthy businessmen, and Russian supporters of Putin.
“The idea is pretty simple: it is shocking that the people who are most happy with the direction of the country are also the most evil,” Nick Kaplan and Tim Gordon, the creators of the ad, told Ad Week in July 2018.
“The creative idea was to show in a hyperbolic manner three of the main groups most enjoying our current president and how out of touch with every day Americans they really are. In the end, even if you are mildly supportive of Trump and his policies, this ad asked, ‘Who are you aligning yourself with?’”
According to Politico, Future Forward USA has booked $20 million in ads scheduled to run in October. Two Obama campaign veterans, Chauncey McLean and Reed Shaw, founded the organization.
A liberal dark money group, Sixteen Thirty Fund, contributed $1,415,274 to Future Forward USA last month, according to FEC records.
New York Times reporter Ken Vogel first spotted the Schmidt donation and noted the PAC’s ad.
Hoffman has been involved in recent years in several controversial political operations, including one that created fake social media personas during an Alabama special election in 2017.
In December 2018, The New York Times reported that Hoffman contributed $100,000 to groups that created fake social media profiles designed to look like they were controlled by Russian citizens. The accounts followed Republican candidate Roy Moore.
Hoffman apologized for funding the project, but denied he was aware of the details of the operation. He acknowledged funding political groups to confront what he said was “the unique threat posed by Donald Trump.”
Hoffman issued an apology in September 2019 after revelations that he invited convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein to an August 2015 dinner with a group of fellow tech icons, including Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk and Peter Thiel.
Facebook investigated another Hoffman-backed operation called News for Democracy, which fed fake news items into the Facebook feeds of conservative users.
Hoffman is also a major funder of ACRONYM, a Democratic consulting group that created the web app that failed during the Iowa Democratic caucuses earlier this year.