Intel CEO Brian Krzanich moved quickly Wednesday night to quell a firestorm of criticism he received after news leaked that he was holding a fundraiser at his home for presumed Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
The event, which was scheduled for Thursday evening, was abruptly cancelled on Wednesday afternoon after an inquiry from the New York Times. But that didn’t stop a host of negative articles questioning why the CEO of one of the largest tech companies—and one co-founded and run for decades by proud immigrant Andy Grove—would be backing Trump.
So Krzanich then took to Twitter just after midnight, where he said he was not backing Trump for president. “I do not intend to endorse any Presidential candidate,” the CEO tweeted. “We are interested in engaging both campaigns in open dialogue on issues in technology.”
The quick explanation should help Krzanich contain the fallout from what initially looked like an effort to give Trump’s campaign a boost in Silicon Valley, where it has struggled to gain any traction whatsoever. The controversy also threatened to undermine Krzanich’s $300 million effort to attract more women and minorities to the technology industry and improve the diversity of Intel’s workforce.
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Trump’s comments about immigration and encryption, his call to boycott Apple (AAPL) products, along with his personal attacks on Amazon.com (AMZN) CEO Jeff Bezos have all hurt his standing with tech sector voters. Research by Crowdpac found Trump had received a total of just $19,000 in donations from the entire tech sector, compared with almost $3 million given to Hillary Clinton and close to $5 million for Bernie Sanders.
Trump may be “radioactive” to most Silicon Valley voters, but it still would be smart for companies to talk with him, arrange meetings and even make donations, says Melinda Jackson, a political science professor at San Jose State University.
“Every industry cares about having their voice heard,” Jackson says. “It would almost be remiss not to have that conversation with Trump. It makes sense to try to reach out to educate him a little bit.”
Intel (INTC) is known as a Republican-leaning company. Along with Cisco Systems (CSCO) and Oracle (ORCL), it’s one of the only Silicon Valley stalwarts where employees have given more to Republican candidates than Democrats this election cycle.
Krzanich’s own donations for federal campaigns have all gone directly to his company’s corporate political action committee. Intel’s PAC has given almost evenly to the two parties in the current election, with 48% of its $473,482 in donations to federal campaigns going to Democrats, according to the web site Opensecrets.org.
The PAC has only made a single presidential campaign donation, however, contributing $5,000 to Marco Rubio. The PAC didn’t make a presidential campaign contribution four years ago and backed only former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani in 2008.