On February 14, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg hosted a political fundraiser in his Palo Alto, California home for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R). For those unfamiliar with the pairing, Zuckerberg and Christie first teamed up in 2010 when Zuckerberg donated $100 million to the Newark school system.
The event was met with controversy, however, as 40 people protested Chris Christie’s budget cut of $7.5 million in funding for Planned Parenthood. Demonstrators claimed that the Republican governor is anti-women and chastised Zuckerberg for supporting him. This critique was a bit disingenuous as Christie donated to Planned Parenthood in 1994 while opposing public funding for it in his run for Freeholder of Morris County.
In response, Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes stated, “Mark and Priscilla have worked closely with Governor Christie on education reform in the Newark school system. They admire his leadership on education reform and other issues and look forward to continuing their important work together on behalf of Newark’s school children.”
The fundraiser is an important breakthrough for Governor Christie as it demonstrated his ability to appeal beyond the traditional Republican base. Zuckerberg is listed as “no preference” for political party under the Santa Clara registrar of voters (and there’s no mention of it on his Facebook page). The Facebook CEO hosted a town-hall style meeting for Obama in 2011, as well.
Facebook’s PAC is careful to donate to candidates on both sides of the aisle. It has donated to Republican House Speaker John Boehner and senators Marco Rubio (R-Fl.), Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Ted Cruz (R-TX). Beneficiaries from the Democratic Party include House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and senators Chris Coons (D-DE), and Dick Durbin (D-IL).
As the 2012 presidential election showed, previous fundraising norms are obsolete and candidates are far better off relying on private contributions than agreeing to the public financing system for campaigns. Obama and Romney each raised and spent almost $1 billion this past election season.
Since launching his campaign in December, Christie has raised over $2 million, including $1.6 million from 420 people who donated the state allowed maximum of $3,800. This does not include donations under $300, donations in the month of February, or the governor’s haul from the aforementioned fundraiser with Zuckerberg. Likewise, Christie’s national popularity will help him substantially in the gubernatorial race and provide a substantial base of donors to return to should he run for president in 2016.
For any potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate, the ability to appeal to the moderate undecided voter base is absolutely crucial. With New Jersey’s Republican governor reaping in the benefits of networking in Silicon Valley, the rest of the GOP should learn from Christie. The conservative base is not the only place where the Republican Party can raise money, especially when the politically unaffiliated have deep pockets as well.