Veterans of high-profile political campaigns and White House administrations such as [Obama aide Ben] LaBolt — who in years past would have turned their public-service resumes and connections into jobs as lobbyists on K Street, advisers at Fortune 500 firms or leaders of nonprofits — are increasingly heading west, attracted by the opportunities to put their political skills to use in the technology industry. It can lead to strange bedfellows: Democrats and Republicans who fought each other while working on opposing campaigns find themselves working on shared goals and trying to affect change outside the nation’s gridlocked capital.
It’s a new gold rush — to social media companies, tech start-ups, incubators and key players in the sharing economy.
“Mall shoes. White cars. Buffet specials. Come and get it, this town is now officially a retirement community for D.C. political vets,” said Matt McKenna, who worked for Clinton for nearly a decade of his post-presidency before joining the ride-hailing company Uber and then launching a crisis-communications firm in Sausalito.
Beyond healthy six-figure salaries and better weather than Washington, D.C., the moves make sense — skills developed in politics are in critical demand in the Bay Area and Silicon Valley.
“In a lot of ways, a campaign is a lot like a start-up: You have to build it very fast, and be prepared to spend millions of dollars to persuade people your candidate is right,” said Matt David, the head of marketing and communications for the dating app Tinder.
David previously worked on John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, Jon Huntsman’s 2012 presidential bid and in support of Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s 2016 White House bid. He also worked on communications for former President George W. Bush and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. David said he has implemented his campaign lessons, including how to monitor traditional and social media in real time, in his current job.