Facebook cofounder Dustin Moskovitz and his wife, Cari Tuna, just gave $20 million to Hillary Clinton’s election campaign. The duo, who have a net worth of $10.5 billion, have generally stayed out of politics to focus on philanthropic causes, but backed Clinton because they believe her views are far less polarizing, questionable, and divisive for the country than Donald Trump’s.
The full rationale is explained in an open letter entitled “Compelled to Act” on Medium.
This donation is personal and not affiliated with any particular social good group. But Moskovitz says he views blocking Trump from the Oval Office as the ultimate charitable act. “Absolutely. I’m not sure how else I might be thinking about it,” he tells Co.Exist. “The key message I want people to hear is basically twofold: Donald Trump must be stopped and that doesn’t mean you need to think of his supporters as bad people.”
In the letter, Moskovitz emphasizes that he believes strongly in the democratic ideal of different parties challenging each other’s ideas. “This cycle is different,” he writes. “The polarization in America today has yielded a race that is about much more than policies and ideas. It has become a referendum on who we want to be—as individuals, as a nation, and as a society.”
From his perspective, the battle of Trump against Clinton is really about whether to build a society through tribalism (Trump) or interdependence (Clinton). “I think years ago tribalism made a lot more sense, and that the world has changed,” he says. “In my view, those who are a part of the Republican platform haven’t accepted that fact. They are still living in the past and making decisions in that context. I believe we are really capable of helping every human on earth thrive.” To that end, Clinton’s agenda may not be perfect but would be a strong step in the right direction.
Moskovitz and Tuna have already signed the Giving Pledge, a commitment among billionaires to donate at least half of their net worth, and are practitioners of “giving while living,” another philosophy that advocates spending now to make lasting change within your own lifetime. At the same time, Trump himself hasn’t been invited to take the Giving Pledge. As Bill Gates coyly noted in a recent interview, “He hasn’t been known for his philanthropy. He’s been known for other things.” (Trump also may not be a billionaire, and therefore ineligible in the first place.)
The couple pioneered Good Ventures, a foundation based on the theory of effective altruism, or an evidence-based, impact-driven approach to giving. They also use GiveWell, a charity evaluator for cost-effectiveness, and share their results publicly through the Open Philanthropy Project. In that spirit, Moskovitz says he and his wife did some complicated math on whether $20 million might be best spent elsewhere, but consider the fallout from a Trump presidency insurmountable. “Let’s just say there were a lot of spreadsheets,” he says. “We felt this was at least as good [as anything else].”
One of their main problems, they write in the letter, is Trump and the Republican Party’s stance on immigration, which presents a “zero-sum vision” for the future. While the Open Philanthropy Project has shown there’s the potential for everyone to benefit when people are allowed to move from low-income to high-income countries, Trump wants to build a wall along the border to Mexico. “The immigrant work is just the most obvious example,” he says. “We’re pushing for more low skill visas, and Trump is pushing to deport people.” He also fears that Trump might shrink U.S. foreign aid, which conflicts with the goal of fighting global poverty. “All of it would be in jeopardy,” he says of philanthropic work in general. “It’s hard to think of something that doesn’t fall into that bucket.”
The letter questions whether Trump’s promises are a “deliberate con” and if his “interest in the presidency might not even extend beyond winning a contest and promoting his personal brand.” In adherence to his evidential way of making arguments, Moskovitz links to continually more news and research around these statements.
The couple is also being transparent about how their money will be spent. It’s being spread among a variety of committees and PACs, including $5 million each to the League of Conservation Voters Victory Fund and For Our Future PAC. All of the groups have strong get-out-the-vote initiatives. Moskovitz says allocations were based on what each would need to be optimally efficient. They also target different demographics. Color of Change, for instance, battles racial injustice. “It’s important to build an inclusive coalition to fight Trump, especially given his damaging rhetoric targeting minorities,” Moskovitz says.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, $20 million is the third highest sum put forth by individuals so far this campaign season. The two largest givers this cycle are both hedge fund managers on different sides of the aisle. Thomas Steyer and his wife, Kathryn Ann Taylor, put $39 million toward Democratic efforts. Robert Mercer and his wife, Diana, have given $21 million toward Republican support. Comparatively, venture capitalist Peter Thiel, who penned a glowing endorsement of Trump’s tactics, gave just $2 million.
The money comes at a crucial time for Clinton, who has raised $693 million from various sources. Despite nearly doubling what Trump’s raised, both may now have just tens of millions on hand, according to a recent Washington Post report. Moskovitz says it’ll be hard to tell the impact of these donations until Election Day, but, in the meantime, he hopes the act will inspire others to give.
“This decision was not easy, particularly because we have reservations about anyone using large amounts of money to influence elections,” the letter adds. “That said, we believe in trying to do as much good as we can, which in this case means using the tools available to us (as they are also available to the opposition).” He figures that even if Clinton wins, it will be hard to curb such massive campaign spending but–as he’s just demonstrated–at least it’s possible to be more transparent and open about where the money is coming from, and what its purpose is. In this case, it’s very simple: to keep Trump far away from the White House.
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