Tech'ed Up

Billionaires Playing Politics • Teddy Schleifer (Puck)

March 07, 2024 Niki Christoff
Tech'ed Up
Billionaires Playing Politics • Teddy Schleifer (Puck)
Show Notes Transcript

Puck reporter Teddy Schleifer pulls back the curtain on tech billionaires and political contributions.  He and Niki look into the money and influence wielded by Silicon Valley titans over the presidential campaign. They talk about effective altruists, the “red-pilling” of Silicon Valley, and why tech donations to third-party candidates will continue to make things interesting this election season. 

“We write about these donor advisors not because it's necessarily the juiciest stuff in the world, but [because] I think it tells you that this person is going to be spending 10 million plus a cycle.” -Teddy Schleifer

Niki: I'm Niki Christoff and welcome to Tech’ed Up. 

Today I'm joined in the studio by tech reporter Teddy Schleifer, who covers the topics of billionaires, politics, and philanthropy. Which seems like a topic we need to be talking about right now, especially given that we are right in the middle of election season.

Teddy, welcome to the studio. Thank you for coming in. 

Teddy: Thanks for having me.

Niki: We met up for the first time in person post-COVID because we both have had, for our sins, more interaction with tech billionaires than the average bear. Tell us a little bit about what you cover. 

Teddy: Sure. So, I write about inequality from the lens of the mega-rich. There are people out there who cover inequality from the lens of poverty and, sort of, the social services that, y’ know, may or may not help people who are really poor.  

I write about the other side of that, which are people who are really, really rich and the social services that surround them which include taxes, tax accountants, and wealth managers, and family offices, and I look at how wealthy people spend their money and how that influences the world in which the rest of us live. 

Most people have no idea who any of these people really are. I mean, they might know who Elon Musk is, but they don't know, y'know, the Illinois manufacturing magnate who's worth five billion dollars and is moving the state's political or philanthropic systems in various directions. 

I was in Silicon Valley for seven years. I've just moved to D. C. and I, sort of, focus on the tech set and, and all their sins and, and wins. 

Niki: Sins and wins. I love it!

I was thinking as we go through, we can give a little color around who everybody is. 

Just this week rocketman Elon Musk was, [chuckling] was overtaken by Jeffrey Bezos, [Teddy: yeah] space cowboy, as the richest person on the planet, and by factors of a gazillion. And so, we should dig into their outsized influence on two things. One, politics, and two, philanthropy, which kind of leads from politics if they think that's a better way to influence the world.

So, let's just dive right into the presidential election, what you're seeing happening with these folks. 

Teddy: Sure. Elon is, is a great place to start because I think that, y'know, we focus on people who give money and that's just because that's the rawest kind of form of influence, and it's reported, and it's public.

But I mean, I think I want to start with the idea that lots of these people have tremendous influence over the election without giving a cent. Y'know, Elon Musk, I am very skeptical will ever actually get involved in formal political giving, though, y'know, today as we’re recording this, y'know, he's weighing in on, y'know, Texas D.A. races and things like that. [Niki: Right] And y'know, he obviously shapes the conversation with, with every, y'know, reply to @catturd2. [Niki: laughs] 

I mean, the people who donate are, are largely the same people who have been involved in politics for the last 10 years. I think that there's been one key theme in, at least in 2024, and I think also in 2022, on the Silicon Valley billionaire beat, which is sort of the radicalization of tech leaders.

I was in San Francisco last week talking with someone who bundled money for Obama 2012 and we looked at his list of donors who he got involved in that campaign and I was looking at how many of them are now Republicans. People who are, y'know, maybe they don't call themselves Republicans [Niki: Right], but, but just frankly are more energized by, y'know, issues around transgenderism or y'know, DEI or San Francisco, y'know, going to hell. Stuff like that! 

Niki: Energized in that they find this motivating [Teddy: Sure] to have them vote more with Republicans? 

Teddy: Right. And they might say, they might say they're Democrats and they still believe in, y'know, gay rights and abortion access, blah, blah, blah. But like, their, y'know, political energy is channeled toward those issues.

So I think that's the broad theme of the beat right now is just the ways in which in the, in the 2024 election, so many Silicon Valley leaders have been have been red-pilled, and are now more active in conservative politics. 

And Mark Andreessen is a great example of that. I mean, he's somebody who, y'know, in 1998 was helping Al Gore think about how his website would be designed for his 2000 Democratic presidential campaign run. And 25 years later, he's unrecognizable to people who knew him as part of, like, the John Doar tutelage of the 90’s. So, but Andreessen is now [Niki: venture capitalist] Right. Venture capitalist and sort of, y'know, one of the founders of the modern internet [Niki: Heavy crypto investor] Yeah. 

He's very involved in kind of conservative politics in a way he hasn't really been in 10 years when he was kind of first getting to know, kind of, the Romney universe.

On the democratic side, it's sort of a subset of the 2020 resistance-era Democratic donors. I think of Reid Hoffman as sort of the leader of [Niki: LinkedIn founder] LinkedIn founder to one of the [Niki: good human, too!] one of the people whose reputation is not really been not been tarnished in any real way. [crosstalk] He got kind of tinged a little bit with some of the Epstein stuff but, but Reid is basically the leader of the Silicon Valley progressive wing and 

Niki: [interrupts quickly] Well, and I think of him, if I may, [Teddy: sure] and I just got triggered by you saying “the Silicon Valley progressive wing” [Teddy: laughs] as a disaffected Republican myself, but he also is just generally known for having a lot of integrity, does a lot of work with veterans, and for people who don't know, also has a little AI platform called Pi that you can ask about difficult conversations and it'll give you some advice, and they don't keep your data.

Anyway, just a little plug for Pi. [Teddy: Sure!]  Yes. 

So, Reid Hoffman is Dem kind of? 

Teddy: Yeah, he's the parent of, of the kids here. And, and, y'know, the, Reid, Reid has been I, sort of, think of him as taking over the mantle that Eric Schmidt had from 2005 to, to ‘16.  Y'know, to me it is always an important data point when one of these donors has full-time political staff that work for them. [Niki: mmh] 

I know it's very inside baseball and, y'know, at Puck we, we write about these donor advisors not because it's necessarily the juiciest stuff in the world, but I think it tells you that this person is going to be spending 10 million plus a cycle. 

Niki: Well this is actually, in some ways, how we got connected because, [Teddy: right]not officially, but I was a donor advisor to, have been, to multiple billionaires starting with Eric Schmidt, [Teddy: right] who you just mentioned.

So, as sort of, I describe him as a moderate Democrat, deeply involved in national security issues. Has given to, kind of mainstream Dem candidates for a long time but we used to, back in the day, 10 years ago, 12 years ago, 14 years ago, advise executives to give as close as they could, 50/50. 

Like, “Find the people on the other side of the aisle that you can agree with some things on, just so that your giving doesn't look too imbalanced.” [Teddy: Sure]. That has gone completely out the window. 

I think one trend is billionaires not giving at all. So, a great, [chuckling] here's a hot tip if you're a billionaire listening and you're tired of your employees being mad at you for giving [Teddy: laughs] and you're tired of getting requests for donations: buy a news outlet.

So, Washington Post, Jeffrey Bezos, stopped giving, [Teddy: Jeffrey?!]  I always call him “Jeffrey Bezos, space cowboy” [chuckling]

Teddy: Jeffrey P. Preston Bezos, right! 

Niki:  Jeff stopped giving when he bought the Washington Post. He only gives, I believe, did give to the Amazon corporate PAC. Marc Benioff, who I worked for stopped giving when he bought Time magazine. Partly on my advice of like, “We could also just invoke the, ‘I own a news outlet.’”

Teddy: Sure! I was going to say, I feel, I feel like the, the Democratic bundling donor universe, like, sees that as an excuse, but yes, it can be an excuse and true. 

Niki: And it's also an almost in some ways for, for these folks, especially when they have big companies that are largely populated, but not entirely populated by progressive workers. [Teddy: yup]

They're in an unsolvable riddle. They want to get their issues in front of elected officials,  and they have a workforce who is largely not made up of, despite the fact that they work at tech companies, capitalist, establishment folks who, y'know, think highly of what Mitch McConnell's done for this country, [chuckling] by keeping us from defaulting on the debt, which many of the CEOs think.

Teddy: Right? Sure! And, and so the, the, the, I mean, a huge force in, y'know, shaping political giving, at least the disclosure of political giving is activism internally. [Niki: totally] And I think it's not a surprise that as we go through the people that are the most active, you'll see that lots of them are not current CEOs of companies. 

Like, Reid Hoffman is not gonna get protested by, y'know, the employees of Greylock. Y'know, Reid Hoffman can do whatever he wants. 

Niki: Greylock being, again, a venture capital firm. 

Teddy: Sorry. Yeah. 

Niki: He can do what he wants because he's not at LinkedIn!

Teddy:  Right, right, right. And, or, or even Eric Schmidt, who's not, y'know, not an operational role, Google or y'know, one donor who I think is very important and doesn't really get enough attention in the Democratic Silicon Valley universe is Dustin Moskovitz, who [Niki: Facebook co-founder] 

One of the Facebook co-founders not portrayed in the movie and he is the CEO of Asana, which is a publicly-traded company. Though I often forget that he's the CEO of Asana even though I write about him more than, y'know, anybody else. Dustin is, is sort of the leader of this, this younger group of tech billionaires who are involved in democratic politics, not because they, like, love the game as much as someone like Reid or Eric Schmidt does but because they think it is a way to stave off the end of the world.

Y'know, Dustin is one of the biggest funders, or I think is the now the biggest funder of effective altruism.  The, y'know philosophical pedagogy focused on catastrophic risks like nuclear war and AI apocalypse, blah, blah, blah. 

And Dustin in 2016 got very involved, alongside his wife, in the Hillary Clinton campaign because he thought Trump was gonna lead to the end of the world. And he spent, y'know, a gajillion dollars then, in 2020, spent another gajillion. 2024, gonna spend a third gajillion. So, he sort of is this, there's this younger generation of tech leaders who are very involved, I think, at Dustin's, at Dustin's advice, so those are the two people on the Democratic side that I think are, as the most important.

On the Republican side of this election, y'know, I think that there’s a group of talkers and a group of doers. [Niki: mmh] 

The talkers, not to bring up other podcasts on this one. 

Niki: No, do it! We're not threatened. We're confident! [chuckling] 

Teddy: I mean, I do think that I waver between whether or not David Sacks, who is one of the early PayPal executives and is now a venture capitalist. I waver over whether he is extraordinarily under-covered or extraordinarily over-covered.

Niki:  I think it depends on how much you're on Twitter because he's so on Twitter. 

Teddy: Right. 

Niki: I consider him a, Well, I'll just say- 

Teddy: Do you think he's over-covered? 

Niki: No. I think most people have no idea who he is! 

One of the things I really, that really bothered me, was when he was weighing in quite a lot on Ukraine and then was “Like, don't let people shame you for not knowing anything about national security.I can still,”  I was like, [disgusted] “Okay.” 

Anyway, continue. Yes, his politics?

Teddy: I introduce the idea that he might be under-covered because he does have a lot of influence in, y'know, at least on, in parts of Twitter, but also I think off-Twitter. I mean, I do think that y'know, when, Kevin McCarthy came to town, y'know, when he was, when he was Speaker of the House, like, y'know, David Sacks gets invited to that event.  

Tomorrow, David Sacks is in D.C. getting some award from some conservative think tank.  He has full-time donor advisory help, the donor advisory help. Like, he is doing the things in a way that I think maybe outpunches his actual net worth because he's not, y'know, someone like Peter Thiel, who is his mentor or his close friend. Like he does not have Peter Thiel-levels of money but he does have a lot of influence. 

He sort of is like a doer-talker hybrid but there's a whole other class of Republican sort of people on the internet who are talkers and then, y'know, there'll be a doer, someone like, Scott McNealy, who, y'know, is sort of an internet 1.0, y'know, Bill Gates foil from back in the day, who gives lots of money and supports Trump. And no one ever talks about him. 

Niki: Right. Well, wait, let's go back for a second to David Sacks. [Teddy: Sure] So again, when you said “under-covered or overcovered?” It's like, well, in our world, David Sacks, especially because you and I both covered a lot of crypto. [Teddy: Yeah] David Sacks is incredibly influential with crypto. 

Crypto is extremely on X slash Twitter. [Teddy: Yeah]  And you're right, there are real-world implications to that influence. So, right now, crypto this week, Bitcoin's at almost 70,000. Suddenly you've got flush folks who are single-issue voters. They're going to get involved, whether or not they're billionaires. They are being influenced by David Sacks and what he has to say online. You're starting to see them say, like, “Well, I could handle RFK or Vivek [chuckling] as being in the race.” 

So, you do have an in-real-life impact, including by pushing donations because other people are inspired to give.

I mean, keeping in mind, again, there are actual limits on what people can give directly to candidates [Teddy: right] and it's not that much money [Teddy: right]. 

And, just to back up to what we first started talking about, Elon Musk, I don't, I don't even know if that guy votes! [laughing] I bet he doesn't! [Teddy: He, he]  There's no way he's standing in line.

Teddy: Right, sure. There are a lot of wealthy people who, whose political involvement just ends at, y'know, the 280-character mark. 

In general, especially when you think about Silicon Valley compared to other industries, a lot of people are new to this stuff especially pre-Trump, the industry really under-invested in politics. It was kind of run by a couple of trade organizations and people like, y'know, Eric Schmidt. And it was very “dirty” to kind of be involved in, y'know, PACs and lobbying disclosures, and this whole world of D.C. backscratching when you could be out there, y'know, inventing Facebook. 

I feel like now Silicon Valley is at least in the conservative side of the aisle, at least since I started covering this in 2016. And the Democratic universe is also more, maybe less involved than they were, y'know, during the Trump era, but they're still more involved than they were during the Obama era.

The tech people who are in it and, and, y'know, fighting for a better world and, and whatever they did, [chuckles] however they wanted to define their better world I just like and respect more than the people who are just kind of tending to their yachts. 

Niki: Yeah, that's right. Well, and I also think that it's interesting to consider how much people are participating because of ideology. That, when it aligns with their bottom line, those are the people you see getting involved, right?

They want no regulations. They're super annoyed at a lot of what's happening around unionization and so on in Silicon Valley. And so, it's kind of like a backlash against culture wars. It fits ideologically with their idea of, [Teddy: yup] of libertarianism or utilitarianism, and then also that happens to also bolster their bottom line, whether they're invested in crypto or they just don't want the FTC [Teddy: right], y'know, coming after them.

Teddy: I was, I was gonna ask you, I mean, do you feel like crypto is like, [interrupts self] I do think that lots of, y'know, tech companies and tech donors who are supporting just as a shorthand, less regulation or less onerous regulation of crypto. Like do they believe that? [answers self] Yeah, sure, but I would also imagine, y'know, on the from, from your perspective on the inside that like “Like, no shit! It's good for, it's good for their bottom line.”

Niki: It's good for their bottom line. It's interesting. I would describe the crypto set who's involved politically, which a lot of them are involved politically, they are essentially single-issue voters. They are voting on whether or not their businesses can survive in the United States [Teddy: Yeah], and I think, frankly, they've gotten a really rough ride out of D.C., so a lot of them are moving to London, they're going to Dubai, they're going overseas because they're having a hard time running companies in the United States because of Senator Warren and, the SEC Chair Gary Gensler.

So, they are, legitimately, one- issue voters. However, they are not socially conservative. They are not largely religious or evangelical. They think it's completely bonkers that we are talking about some of the culture war issues that we're talking about. I think given a choice, if they could have sort of a lower regulation option, they would choose that.

Teddy: So, is that so that in some sense that makes crypto entrepreneurs who are involved here, like, more similar or their political involvement is more straightforward? 

Niki: It’s super straightforward.

Teddy: If you represent the refrigerator industry, and you, y'know, want more pro-refrigerator politicians, you donate to them, and you encourage them to have pro, y'know, refrigerator policies, and then y'know, it's just an ROI. 

It's not, it's not like a, there's no, there's no grand plot. 

Niki: There's no grand plot, and additionally, there's no candidate that covers what is largely a young population, many of them do care a lot about, women's rights and women in the workforce, and Roe v. Wade, but that's not their main issue. 

And so, they just don't have a candidate that matches up with their low regulation, moderate social positions. And so, they're just going to go all in on their businesses. 

That's a huge broad brush over a lot of people, but I think it's right. 

Gay rights, too! I wanted to add that as well. Like, all social issues, right? So they tend to be, I think, pretty moderate, and again, it fits with libertarianism. 

Teddy: The one story I've been closest to on this for the last couple of years has been the Sam Bankman-Fried story, which melds together so many of these themes we're talking about. 

And has made the whole story fascinating and messy was because, like, on the one hand, he was, y'know, a crypto entrepreneur who was narrowly pushing for pro-crypto policies to enhance his bottom line, yada, yada, yada.

On the other hand, at the exact same time, he also was like, a Democrat who, I think, did love the game and loved schemes and also he had a Republican friend who did the exact same schemes and loved the game. And at the same time he also was an effective altruist who believed everything I said about Dustin. So you had all these overlapping things being true simultaneously!

 I think the media in general sometimes makes these donors seem like they're savants who are executing these perfectly tailored plans by their advisors. Sometimes mega-donors are on Twitter, too and they just, like, see an ad from some Senator and they're like “I'm going to give the guy a million bucks.”

That's kind of how it happens sometimes. 

Niki: It's actually even worse than that! [chuckling] They get cornered by somebody at a cocktail party and they sort of agree that they're going to do something [chuckling]

Teddy: But they're human, right? And then they're responding to a, like, pressure from a friend, [Niki: yeah!} right? And that's why I'm always struck by that. And in my reporting is just the lack of process that surrounds gifts. 

Niki: Absolutely. And again, as someone who would think through the process around gifts [Teddy: yeah], so having run some of these PACs at tech companies, there's so many things that people don't understand about PACs. 

First of all, it's not corporate funds, it's executives giving, so it's their personal money. Usually, a, a well-run PAC is bi-partisan.

It actually wasn't the election of President Trump that made it very hard to run a PAC in this town for a tech company. It was the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh. It became impossible to write a check to a Senate Republican, including the most moderate or, y'know, the ones who were great on high-skilled immigration reform, the ones who were great on certain, who had voted for the Equality Act but still confirmed Justice Kavanaugh, it became almost impossible.

In fact, when I was at Salesforce, we paused the PAC for a while [Teddy: right]  because of employee pressure because we just couldn't give, even to people who were really aligned with issues that, that our employees cared about. Really important issues like visa reform and it just became almost impossible. 

So, we just sort of stopped for a while. Microsoft also went dormant for a while. It just became too hard. 

Teddy: Yeah. And I imagine, I mean, did you feel like the juices was worth the squeeze there?  In terms of like, like It's not as if, y'know, the $5,000 PAC contribution is going to like, y'know, make Salesforce king of the world. [Niki: Right! Totally] But meanwhile, that 5,000 contribution could, y'know, lead to a confrontation at all hands [chuckles].

Niki: That is exactly what happens, right? That's exactly right. The juice is not worth the squeeze in many cases and it became more and more difficult to explain. When you start to explain, like, “how a political action committee works,” it just is, like, you've already lost the story with the employees. [Teddy: Right] 

When I was at Google, and we had a really really well-run PAC in my opinion. It was, it was really professionally done, and this was pre-President Trump, so it functioned a little more traditionally. Even then, people would say, well, y'know, “I'm looking up how many Google employees are Democrats, and it's overwhelming.” And so then, Republicans would say, like, “Democrats are totally in your pocket.” 

And I'm like, “Well, if it were true that giving money politically got us anything in this town, we wouldn't have these huge antitrust investigations by the Obama administration.” 

Like, it doesn't actually buy you a regulatory outcome. It really buys you an opportunity to get in front of the elected. That's all it is: getting you is a moment at a breakfast. 

Mitch McConnell once looked at my name tag and he said, “What is” And I had 30 seconds to describe a company he'd not heard of but [Teddy: that's, that's an opportunity, right?] Absolutely! I could just explain what it was, which is the whole thing I was writing a check for. 

Teddy: Yes. 

Niki: Okay, so we've covered off the venture capitalists who are leaning more, ever more to the right. Maybe we wouldn't say Republican, but ever more to the right. 

Teddy: Anti left, I feel like. 

Niki: Anti-left. That's exactly right. Anti-left. 

We've covered the more traditional Dem donors. We've covered the effective altruists who think that giving to politics or philanthropy in a way that supports their worldview because they are really doomers and concerned about the end of time, I guess, and humanity and AI taking over the world. 

We've covered those folks. We've covered some names people might not have heard of. What are we missing? What else is happening that you think is interesting right now? 

Teddy: We're recording this at sort of the final, final hours maybe of the, y'know, Republican presidential primary.

 I do think that the, the big story, ultimately, over the next couple of months, at least, will be, to the extent to which these donors are dissatisfied with the two outcomes that they've been given. And I think that a huge story on my beat is going to be interest and flirtation with third party campaigns.

Whether that is No Labels, whether that is RFK, whether that is, y'know, whatever kind of cockamamie schemes are drawn up over the next couple months by billionaires who are used to people saying “Yes, sir.”  I think that's a huge storyline. 

Lots of wealthy people are going to be exploring non-Biden, non-Trump options.

To some extent you could say like, “Oh, these rich people are just out of touch with the system, but it's, y'know, on the other hand, 70 percent of Americans agree with that.” 

So like, you could argue that ironically, these people are more in touch with the system than kind of the Democratic or Republican primary electorates. So,it's going to be fascinating. I think that's a huge storyline that I'm excited to dive into. 

Niki: I totally agree. So, I was on a family vacation recently and my cousin's girlfriend, she's 24, she, she's a middle school teacher in Florida. She has no interest in the world we pay attention to.

She's like, ”I think Mark Cuban's going to run because he recused himself from [Teddy: that’s a high-educated voter!] Shark Tank.”  

Teddy: Oh, because of Shark Tank?

Niki: Yeah. 

Teddy: Okay, got it. 

Niki: Yeah. She's like, “I think he's going to”, and I was like, “Well, here's the thing…” 

Y'know, let us not forget, speaking of billionaires, Howard Schultz [Teddy: Right] was very serious about a third party run, had the money to self-fund, and essentially lasted a matter of moments before he just went down in flames. 

It's really hard to pull off a third party option. 

Teddy: Yeah, I agree with that. I just think that this election cycle is the likeliest it's, y'know, ever been. And even with the existing options, I mean, I think that even if No Labels doesn't field a campaign, I do think that, y'know, as we talk about the anti-left, I do think there will be lots of tech wealth that flows to RFK.

 I think that, y'know, even though it doesn't make sense, so to speak, narrowly speaking about, y'know, he's not like, he's not a moderate per se. Y'know, he's an eclectic view of, of, of liberal and conservative beliefs. Some on the far left, some on the far right. He's not like the typical, like Mitt Romney kind of candidate who collects lots of checks from the, y'know, ruling business class.  But I think that lots of tech leaders will, and have rallied to him.  And I think that that's a storyline that, y'know, we'll keep on giving fruits [chuckling].

I do think that like Bitcoin is a huge part of why tech leaders have gotten involved with him. Yknow, I've written about Jack Dorsey's political work over the last year or so. And I think one thing I didn't quite properly appreciate is the extent to which RFK has tried to cultivate the crypto community.

Niki: He absolutely has, which is smart because he was doing this when crypto, when Bitcoin was way down, when it was a winter, and now it's way, way up. So, they have, y'know, they've got Bitcoin coming out of their pockets. 

Teddy: Yeah, sure. So, I mean, I, y'know, I think that there's going to be lots of fun third party storylines.

Niki: And y'know who else, y'know, maybe on a short list for VP, Vivek [Teddy: Yeah] recently tweeted lowercase g lowercase m. For our non-crypto friends, that's good morning [Teddy: Right]  on Twitter, which is a little nod that he's also getting involved in crypto. 

Teddy: Yeah, I think  I was at a Trump rally where he was, right after Vivek endorsed him and Trump said that Vivek asked for one policy that Trump would do for his new endorsement and it had to do with crypto.

Part of this is generational, I mean, y'know this, that like, y'know, the candidates who are more interested in crypto are younger. Trump was asked at a town hall, like on Fox News the other day, something about Bitcoin. And it was one of these videos where like, you've seen a Trump where he clearly has no idea what the question is being asked about. [both chuckle] And he says, “They're looking at many things and a total policy is coming in a few weeks. We're looking at a lot of things. [both chuckle] [Niki: Yeah, right] Yeah. So, sure.

Niki: I think that will definitely emerge, just mostly given the strength of Bitcoin and the fact that Fidelity is now trading Bitcoin. Y'know, a lot of people are getting involved and so, so folks are going to have money to give and when they have money to give, they will.

So, I think it'll be, certainly create a new crop of folks giving money in this cycle.  And then the last thing I'll say, I was listening to, you used to work for Kara Swisher and [Teddy: I did!] I was listening to one of the, a podcast you co-hosted with her, I think last summer. 

Teddy: Oh God, which one? 

Niki: It was with Frank Luntz, my old boss! 

Teddy: Okay, got it. 

Niki: Political pollster Frank Luntz and he was talking about the possibility. This was again August so anything could have happened and he was saying the interest in a third party candidate and then he mentioned something (which I am also of an age where this applies to me) “Ross Perot, let us not forget, got 19 percent of the vote and was totally nuts.”

Teddy: Yeah. Yeah, I mean, to some extent you could argue that being totally nuts is the only way to be successful as a third party candidate because you have to break through the noise!

 Niki: I think it'll be a fascinating year.

Tell us about Puck News, what you're doing, and your newsletter. 

Teddy: Sure. So, I work for a digital media startup called Puck, which is not a hockey publication, for people, especially in, in tech or in DC, y'know, I'm sure you know somebody who subscribes.

It is a paid publication, which is a totally different incentive than, presents a totally different incentive and, and business model than working at a free publication where, y'know, once a week I have to write something that people will pay for which I think makes me want to do something really good every week.

And, y'know, I try to deliver that. It's for people who love the inside baseball and or work in the inside baseball or y'know, maybe grew up dreaming, y'know, watching TV shows or reading magazine articles about people who, y'know, are in the game and idolizing these people or hating these people.

The audience is extraordinarily successful people who, y'know, when my boss jokes, it's a publication for billionaires to read about their friends, that short sells a little bit. But the, the idea is that 

Niki: I think that short sells it a lot! [chuckling] Anyone who's interested in, like, our ruling tech overlords.

Teddy: Yeah. Thank you! That's what I write about. 

Niki: We will put that into the show notes and I sound like an influencer saying that. 

Thank you again for coming in person into the studio. I really appreciate it. 

Teddy: You bet!