If Donald Trump, as expected, selects Mike Pence as his running mate, it may shore up Trump’s credibility among conservatives but it will also definitely stress his already-frayed relationship with the tech community.
Execs at high-tech superpowers Apple and Salesforce pushed back hard last year when Pence, the governor of Indiana, signed a law that was widely seen as discriminatory against the LGBT community. The so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act would have let businesses cite religious beliefs to legally refuse service to LGBT people.
Apple (AAPL) chief executive Tim Cook, tech’s most prominent openly gay executive, blasted the legislation; Marc Benioff, his counterpart at Salesforce (CRM), even launched a semi-boycott against the state.
Salesforce owns ExactTarget, an Indianapolis-based marketing automation software company, and threatened to cancel a big conference in the state if Pence did not veto the law (he did not) and then if the law was not changed. It was, about a week later when legislators revised the law.
So if Pence is the vice presidential nominee, tech companies, already wary of Trump, will only get more ruffled.
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On Thursday, an open letter to Trump signed by 150 execs in tech, outlined their concerns about Trump’s comments on immigration and inclusion. From the letter, signed by such luminaries as Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Slack vice president April Underwood, Yelp (YELP) chief executive Jeremy Stoppelman, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and others:
[Trump] campaigns on anger, bigotry, fear of new ideas and new people, and a fundamental belief that America is weak and in decline. We have listened to Donald Trump over the past year and we have concluded: Trump would be a disaster for innovation. His vision stands against the open exchange of ideas, free movement of people, and productive engagement with the outside world that is critical to our economy — and that provide the foundation for innovation and growth.
For more on tech leaders and Trump, watch:
Trump does have some backers in Silicon Valley and other tech redoubts. Investor and Facebook (FB) board member Peter Thiel, for example, supports Trump and will speak at next week’s Republican convention in Cleveland, although as Facebook noted pointedly, he will do so as a private citizen, not as a representative of the social networking giant.
Given that Trump has tapped into growing public resentment of “the 1%” to fuel his campaign, some might argue that the tech elite’s opposition might actually help his campaign more than hurt it.