Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

A Real-Life Grand Old Party: Help Revive Y!PAC and It’s Cocktail Time With Yahoo’s Mayer for Employees

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While it is not unusual for a company in the Internet sector to solicit its employees to voluntarily contribute to its political action committee, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer seems to be putting a very Grand Old Party spin on it to turbocharge the efforts of its lackluster Y!PAC.

And by “party,” we mean the more fun kind, as well as the political kind, offering — for those employees who join it and give over $2,400 — a chance, along with 10 other Charlie-Bucket-golden-ticket winners, to share a drink or two with Mayer at her place.

“I am hosting a cocktail reception at my home on Thursday, July 18 for every Yahoo that contributes more than $2400 to Y!PAC and will randomly select 10 other people, who contribute at any level, to join us,” wrote Mayer in an internal memo that I was sent this week. “The reception will be both an opportunity to thank you for your significant contribution and to learn more about our efforts on Y!PAC.”

A Yahoo spokesperson said that the memo was accurate:

“Yahoo! engages in the political process to promote and preserve a healthy technology environment for our company, our users and the industry at large. One of the ways eligible Yahoo! employees can directly participate in the public policy process is by voluntarily contributing to our Yahoo! Political Action Committee (PAC). To thank employees for their contributions and help them learn more about our Yahoo! PAC efforts, Marissa will host an event for Yahoo! employees who voluntarily contribute to the PAC at a variety of levels.”

As I noted, these PAC solicitations are common among companies with such organizations — although higher-level managers are more typically targeted, according to a number of other big tech outfits. While events that feature politicians sometimes occur, other than some token offers, such as free movie tickets or even a free Apple iPad, a CEO party as sweetening is not common.

Interestingly, Mayer seems to be borrowing from another playbook page of Google’s, where she spent her entire career, previous to Yahoo. Sources said the search giant has held special events with top execs, including with CEO and co-founder Larry Page, as part of the enticement to join its PAC, although a donation was not a requirement to attend (even if it was suggested).

One person with knowledge of the situation said that Y!PAC hasn’t been a big priority at Yahoo over the years, which has had much less influence than other tech players in Washington, D.C. Thus, Mayer is clearly trying to up the stakes.

She needs to. According to Federal Election Commission data, Google’s NETPAC had total contributions of $483,656 from the beginning of the year until May 31, and Microsoft PAC had $443,820. Yahoo, in comparison, has raised only $18,043 in the same period.

Multiple Yahoos I contacted, both current and former, said that Y!PAC solicitations were not aggressive in the past, happening annually, and largely aimed at top management and Yahoo’s board, some of whom contributed.

The low contribution number for Yahoo could be a liability. According to multiple sources, politicians will always consider what level of contribution they’ve received from one company’s PAC compared to another and tend of focus on the big givers. And, given Yahoo’s longtime lack of focus in the arena, it is unlikely most employees considered it a priority, either.

Not Mayer, who has personally been very politically active over the years, including raising $112,400 for President Barack Obama’s recent reelection, and $386,000 overall for him since 2007. Mayer has also been to the nation’s capital several times since she was appointed to the top job at Yahoo nearly a year ago, including a big CEO meeting with President Obama in November (pictured below, courtesy of the White House).

obama-marissa-mayer

In addition, creative social methods of raising money are not atypical for her. Someone just won $90,000 bid to have lunch with Mayer in an online charity auction, with the proceeds going to the Aspire East Palo Alto Charter School.

Here’s the internal memo on trying to up the game at Y!PAC:

CONFIDENTIAL & PROPRIETARY — DO NOT FORWARD

Now more than ever, the Internet industry faces a number of significant public policy challenges. Policy makers are debating major changes to laws impacting immigration and privacy, cybersecurity, human rights, and intellectual property protection. Their decisions affect Yahoo’s ability to innovate, compete, and grow, and that is why I am asking you to learn about and join Y!PAC, Yahoo!’s Political Action Committee.

As a well-known technology company, government officials seek our advice on public policy issues impacting the Internet and economic growth. From being invited to D.C. to share our perspective on the fiscal cliff and immigration reform, to hearing from our Public Policy team at FYI about the need to engage with lawmakers — educating candidates and elected officials is critical to our users, partners, and communities.

And, we need your help. By law, all funding for Y!PAC contributions to federal candidates must come from Yahoos like you. In turn, Y!PAC helps us educate and elect federal candidates of both political parties who understand our industry and the public policy challenges facing Yahoo! and other Internet businesses. I have personally contributed to Y!PAC and while it is of course voluntary, I hope you will consider contributing.

I’m hosting a cocktail reception at my home on Thursday, July 18 for every Yahoo that contributes more than $2400 to Y!PAC and will randomly select 10 other people, who contribute at any level, to join us. The reception will be both an opportunity to thank you for your significant contribution and to learn more about our efforts on Y!PAC.

To learn more about Y!PAC and to join, please visit the PAC website at yo/YPAC.

Thanks,

Marissa

This communication is intended for eligible employees only. Please do not forward.

Contributions to Yahoo! PAC are not tax deductible. Federal law requires that all contributors be US Citizens or lawfully-admitted permanent residents. Federal law requires Yahoo! PAC to use its best efforts to collect and report the name, mailing address, occupation and name of employer of individuals whose contributions exceed $200 per calendar year. You have the right to refuse to contribute without reprisal. All contributions to the Yahoo! PAC are voluntary. Any giving guidelines are merely suggestions. You are free to contribute more or less than the guidelines given, or not at all. Yahoo! will not favor or disadvantage you for the amount you give, or for not giving at all. Contributions to Yahoo! PAC are for political purposes.


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