The Washington Whisperers

Peter Thiel
Peter Thiel brandishing a benjamin. Photo: Marco Bello/Getty Images
Theodore Schleifer
July 26, 2022

On Saturday, Election Day will be just 100 days away—a rollicking final stretch of midterm campaigning that will determine who controls the Senate next year, and set the stage for the presidential race to come. What happens this fall—and in 2024—depends in part on the money game in Silicon Valley, where the tech mega-donors who were activated by Donald Trump in 2016 are still ruminating on just how involved they want to be going forward.

This winter, I published a Grantland-esque, highly scientific power ranking of these nine Democratic and five GOP players in Silicon Valley. Now, six months later, and after a wave of F.E.C. filings over the past week or two, I’m revisiting the ranking with an updated portrait of who’s up and down in donorworld. Or put another way, whose call should you return first?

The Left 

1. There are few characters that we have been more obsessed with at Puck than Sam Bankman-Fried, the crypto-hawking, philosophy-spewing political mega-donor who has unleashed tens of millions of dollars on Washington over the last year or so. At just 30 years old, S.B.F. has become ubiquitous in our political culture—he’s popped up at Democratic congressional retreats, invested in Semafor, testified before Congress, and is laboring to refashion big-money politics in a peculiar effective-altruist direction. The only trouble for S.B.F. has been that, er, his romp through our campaign-finance system hasn’t gone so well: He burned $12 million on a longshot Democratic congressional candidate in Oregon—a race where S.B.F. became an unwitting boogeyman—before burning another $12 million on a California ballot initiative that wouldn’t even qualify for the midterms. Undiscouraged, S.B.F. recently dropped another $4 million into his own super PAC last month, putting him at $27 million total in the super PAC for the cycle. (That doesn’t include all the money S.B.F. has put into the ballot initiatives, his own lobbying organization or other super PACS.) This story is just getting started.