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Tech leaders boost challenger to Feinstein's Senate seat

Kevin de León wearing a suit and speaking from a podium
Kevin De León is running for longtime California Senator Dianne Fienstein's Senate seat. Photo: Rich Fury/Getty Images

Several Silicon Valley leaders are bankrolling California State Senate leader Kevin de León, the challenger to longtime Sen. Dianne Feinstein, per disclosure forms. Among his backers is LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, one of Silicon Valley's most prolific political donors, who held a fundraiser for de León last year, Axios hears from multiple sources.

Why it matters: The support from big names in the industry underscores growing tension between Silicon Valley and its longtime senator. Some in tech see Feinstein as out of step with their fast-growing industry and have clashed with her over issues like encryption.

  • She is also taking a hard line against the companies in her home state on controversial issues. For example, she grilled top lawyers for Google, Facebook and Twitter during hearings on Russian election interference earlier this year. “I don't think you get it," she said.

Buzz: Several boldface names in tech gave to Kevin de León, a Democrat from Los Angeles, late last year after he launched his campaign. Some of these donations came from Hoffman's fundraiser.

  • LinkedIn founder and Greylock partner Hoffman
  • Emerson Collective founder Laurene Powell Jobs, along with several other people associated with Emerson
  • Y Combinator President Sam Altman
  • Lex Machina CEO Josh Becker
  • Apollo Fusion CEO and ex-Googler Michael Cassidy
  • Gurnet Point Capital Partner George Montgomery

What they're saying: "A number of us have worked very closely with Kevin on environmental issues, which are also near and dear to the heart of many in Silicon Valley," said Becker. He said de León's candidacy could result in a "real race and a real discussion."

Yes, but: Feinstein also has powerful backers, collecting donations last year from Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and top executives at SpaceX. She also has significant cash and name recognition leads over de León.

Note: Emerson Collective is an investor in Axios.

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Facebook reaches a tipping point

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios 

Of all the news crises Facebook has faced during the past year, the Cambridge Analytica scandal is playing out to be the worst and most damaging.

Why it matters: It's not that the reports reveal anything particularly new about how Facebook's back end works — developers have understood the vulnerabilities of Facebook's interface for years. But stakeholders crucial to the company's success — as well as the public seem less willing to listen to its side of the story this time around.

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Why a bipartisan push to help the ACA is losing steam

Sen. Lamar Alexander
Sen. Lamar Alexander. (Photo: Mark Wilson / Getty Images)

Things are looking worse by the day for efforts to stabilize the Affordable Care Act's insurance markets. You might think Democrats would want to protect President Obama's signature achievement, or that Republicans would be motivated to prevent big premium hikes heading into midterms. But other political considerations are proving more influential.

Why this matters: If Congress doesn't step in, coverage will likely become more unaffordable for more people, and insurers may exit some markets altogether.