The Republican shadow primary is now in full swing among Silicon Valley megadonors. I have recently learned that Joe Lonsdale, the outspoken investor and Palantir co-founder, is preparing to introduce Ron DeSantis to his network next month in Austin, his adopted hometown. About 200 of Lonsdale’s business and political contacts are expected to attend, including some who are flying in specifically for the event and the chance to meet the Florida governor.
Lonsdale spends much of his time running his venture firm 8VC, but he is also an ascendant player in Republican fundraising and, since he moved to Texas a few years ago, state politics. Notably, he’s set up his own lobbying shop-cum-conservative think tank, the Cicero Institute, which is set to feature DeSantis as a “special guest” at its first annual “Cicero Courage Awards,” for “courageous citizen legislators,” according to an invitation to the event from him and his wife Tayler passed my way. Lonsdale hasn’t formally committed to raising money for him yet, but the event strikes me as the clearest sign yet that Lonsdale, who has ties to everyone from Elon Musk to Peter Thiel, is likely to eventually back DeSantis in his putative presidential run. Lonsdale declined to give an on-the-record interview about the event, but he’s previously told me that DeSantis is a candidate who he “could really see as someone I’d be strongly behind.”
While the April 22 invitation-only event is not a fundraiser—it is a cocktail reception followed by a dinner and a keynote by DeSantis—it figures to be DeSantis’s most intentional overture to the tech world so far this year. I’m in touch with many Republican fundraisers with ties to Silicon Valley, and the general consensus is that the wealthy community of tech executives and investors in Republican politics are likely to consolidate around the Florida governor. DeSantis’s big-money operation, guided by a phalanx of ex-Ted Cruz aides like Jeff Roe and fundraiser Lauren Lofstrom, is likely to rake in tons of six- and seven-figure checks from the governor’s superfans, along with various stripes of Trump haters who see DeSantis as the only other candidate in a two-person race.