U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna, the Democratic congressman from Silicon Valley, is defending his plans to hold a fundraiser at the home of venture capitalist David Sacks in the wake of advocating for government intervention in Silicon Valley Bank’s collapse.
Sacks, who was PayPal Holdings Inc.’s
founding chief operating officer and often tweets political opinions that mostly differ from Khanna’s, was among the most outspoken of VCs calling for the government to step in after the second-largest bank failure in U.S. history. At one point in the weekend after the bank’s collapse, Sacks tweeted “Where is Powell? Where is Yellen? Stop this crisis NOW,” and has lately been defending the perceived role of venture capitalists in the collapse.
The timing of the fundraiser is coincidental, Khanna told MarketWatch in an interview this week. It was planned last month, before the Silicon Valley Bank failure and Khanna’s advocacy for the bailout that Sacks also sought, he said.
On their opposing political views, Khanna said: “David Sacks knows what my agenda is. He knows I’m a supporter of Bernie Sanders, and of higher taxes on people like him.”
The congressman added that he disagrees with Sacks’s support of Republican politicians such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance, but pointed out that Sacks has also donated to Democrats, such as Hillary Clinton.
When reached for comment Tuesday, Sacks referred MarketWatch to his recent tweet about Khanna, which acknowledged that both he and the congressman are getting criticized about the fundraiser.
Khanna said he has shown that he can be “proud of getting support from tech leaders” and yet be independent of them.
“The tech community explicitly lobbied me on deregulation in 2018, and I stood up to them and voted against it,” he said, referring to the weakening of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The rollback eased regulations for smaller banks and is now being blamed as one of the factors in the demise of Silicon Valley Bank.
The congressman last week was among four dozen Democratic lawmakers from the House and the Senate who cosponsored legislation that would repeal the 2018 rollback. The bill was introduced by Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and U.S. Rep. Katie Porter of California.
In a news release for the introduction of the legislation, Porter’s office called Title IV of the 2018 law — which raised the asset threshold at which a bank is regulated to $250 billion — “dangerous regulatory rollbacks, which invited banks to load up on risk and increase profits.”
The congressman and other legislators are returning donations from Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank
which also failed, and their executives.
Khanna said he intends to talk to Sacks at the March 30 fundraiser about the need for banking-regulation changes, plus Medicare for All and his other priorities.
The congressman also said he was unaware that Sacks — who co-founded Craft Ventures and was also an angel investor in companies like Facebook
Uber Technologies Inc.
and Airbnb Inc.
— cowrote a book with then-fellow Stanford University student Peter Thiel called “The Diversity Myth: Multiculturalism and Political Intolerance on Campus.” Among other things, the 1990s book criticized African American history courses, gender studies, “the extreme focus on racism” and referred to date rape as “belated regret.” Sacks later apologized for what he called his “former views” and said he was embarrassed by them.
Khanna said Sacks “knows I’m an outspoken supporter of diversity.”
According to an invitation for the fundraiser in Sacks’s San Francisco home, the contribution levels required for entry are $3,300, $6,600 and $13,200.