Hillary Clinton emerged from a political hiatus on Tuesday with a Q&A session at a Silicon Valley women's conference, and with a bigger question hanging over the Democrats' presumed 2016 presidential frontrunner: Can she win the hearts and minds of Northern California's wealthy tech elites after many of them fell hard for — and some later fell out with — President Barack Obama?
While the Bay Area "swooned" over candidate Obama, who raised more than $38 million in San Francisco and Silicon Valley in 2008, Clinton arrives almost eight years later "viewed … more as respected establishment than exciting start-up" by the locals, The Washington Post reports.
Nevertheless, Lead On, the organization hosting the former secretary of state on Tuesday, paid her an estimated $300,000 for the privilege, The New York Times reports.
Meanwhile, "Clinton and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, have been busy cultivating personal relationships with many of tech’s boldface names," the Post reports.
Tech executives, for their part, will be watching Clinton to see how she handles the issue of government spying, the Post reports.
A rift between Silicon Valley and the White House has opened after repeated disclosures of the National Security Agency
secretly breaking into digital networks and telecommunications systems to sweep up data — a practice one federal judge has declared unconstitutional.
"Today the litmus test is, 'Where are you on your own government spying and hacking American companies?'" Bay Area Democratic fundraiser Wade Randlett told the Post. "If you can't say without any caveats, commas, equivocations, walk-backs that the answer is no, then you're just not going to get anywhere out here."
"People felt betrayed," Clinton said of NSA spying in her remarks on Tuesday, re/code reports.
"You didn’t tell us you were doing this."
But Clinton also said she "could never condone" the actions of Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who Clinton said "stole millions of documents" detailing secret NSA surveillance practices.
The Snowden revelations outraged
tech CEOs and spurred efforts in Congress to rein in the agency.
They also gave an opening for another potential 2016 contender, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who is wooing
the tech community with a Libertarian-leaning Republican message that Silicon Valley should be left alone to innovate without meddling from "the idiots and trolls in Washington."
Paul even filed a class-action lawsuit
against the Obama administration to block NSA surveillance. The lawsuit remains on hold pending rulings in other, related cases.
The Post reports that there is also "resistance to Clinton among a younger generation of tech gurus" who see Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, not Clinton, as their ideal choice for 2016.
A former Obama volunteer in the Bay Area told the Post that today, "Elizabeth Warren generates that same spark" and "really speaks truth to power, and I don’t see that with anyone else."
The Post also reports that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a leading GOP contender for 2016, "has impressed some technology executives in private meetings, and his political advisers have been quietly consulting dot-com firms for Bush’s eventual campaign."
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