By Tony Romm
June 18, 2016
Apple has told Republican leaders it will not provide funding or other support for the party’s 2016 presidential convention, as it's done in the past, citing Donald Trump’s controversial comments about women, immigrants and minorities.
Unlike Facebook, Google and Microsoft, which have all said they will provide some support to the GOP event in Cleveland next month, Apple decided against donating technology or cash to the effort, according to two sources familiar with the iPhone maker’s plans.
Apple’s political stand against Trump, communicated privately to Republicans, is a sign of the widening schism between Silicon Valley and the GOP’s bombastic presumptive nominee. Trump has trained his rhetorical fire on the entire tech industry, but he's singled out Apple for particular criticism -- calling for a boycott of the company's products, and slamming CEO Tim Cook, over Apple's stance on encryption.
Asked about Apple's absence, a spokeswoman for the GOP's convention effort replied: "We are working with a variety of major tech partners who are focused on being part of the American political process."
Apple declined to comment for this story. It's unclear how the company plans to handle the Democratic convention in Philadelphia this summer. A spokeswoman for the Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
While Apple isn’t the most active political player in the nation’s capital, the tech giant previously has backed both parties’ conventions. It provided about $140,000 each in MacBooks and other tech tools to the Democratic and Republican events in 2008, according to campaign finance records. Apple did not write checks to either party four years later, but it did lend products to both conventions in 2012.
Typically, the tech industry tries to court Democrats and Republicans in equal measure. Despite the liberal leanings of Silicon Valley's top executives, companies like Google and Facebook long have split their election-year donations among both parties’ officeholders. While Apple does not have a political action committee, Cook on his own has tried to forge personal relationships with Democratic and GOP lawmakers. He even dined in D.C. last year, for example, with a quartet of top House Republicans.
Trump’s ascendance, however, has upended the tech industry’s usual political calculations.
Major tech companies including Apple support efforts to attract more high-skilled foreign workers to the U.S. – a position shared by many Republicans. But Trump has taken a vastly different course, threatening to expel millions of undocumented immigrants while building a wall on the Mexican border.
Trump's inflammatory comments on Muslims, women and minority groups also rankle progressive tech executives. And on some of the most pressing issues in tech policy, the presumptive Republican nominee's views conflict with the prevailing opinion in Silicon Valley. Earlier this year, for example, Trump slammed Apple for resisting the FBI, as the government sought to force the company to unlock a password-protected iPhone tied to the San Bernardino terrorist attack. Many tech executives, however, rushed to Apple's defense.
Despite Trump's rhetoric, many of the tech industry's biggest players still plan to back the Republican convention in Cleveland. Google said in April it would set up shop on the GOP convention floor, despite a protest by liberal groups and civil rights activists at its headquarters this spring.
That same week, Microsoft revealed it planned to donate computers and software to the GOP convention, though the company said it would not provide funds to Republicans, as it has in the past. And Facebook has pledged “financial and other support” for the event, the company confirmed in June, even though CEO Mark Zuckerberg has taken verbal swipes at Trump over immigration.
By declining to provide support, Apple joins a short list of tech companies taking a stand directly against Trump. Under pressure from activists at ColorofChange.org, HP Inc., a major donor to the GOP convention in 2012, announced in June it would not help fund the convention in Cleveland.
“We want them to divest from hate. We want them to pull all their money and support,” said Mary Alice Crim, field director for Free Press Action Fund, which is part of the anti-Trump campaign. Tech companies backing the convention, she said, need to be “thinking hard about where they put their brand, and whether they want to align their brand with racism, hatred and misogyny.”
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