San Francisco Ponders: What Comes After Nancy Pelosi?

Bonus: Should Billionaires Be Abolished?

Reed, Christine, Shahid

Nancy Pelosi is one month away from her 82nd birthday. She's on the ballot again for her San Francisco congressional seat. Of the half dozen others on the ballot, her most credible opponent is Shahid Buttar, the progressive attorney and community activist who drew 81,174 votes against her in 2020. There is a lot of speculation, both on Capitol Hill and in San Francisco, that she will retire from Congress soon after the election. And there is a lot of speculation, again, both on Capitol Hill and in San Francisco, that she has been laying the groundwork for her daughter, Christine, to succeed her. Policy-wise, Christine is significantly to the left of her mother, who has been constrained by her position as Democratic Party leader and as a top (corporate) fundraiser. Conservative Democrats have a candidate too: atrocious state Sen. Scott Weiner.

Yesterday, Teddy Schleifer, writing for Puck, introduced a new character into the discussion, Steve Jobs' billionaire son Reed Jobs, who he claimed is "well known." I lived in San Francisco for a dozen years and have lots of close friends there. Not one had ever heard of Reed Jobs except for two who work at Apple. Schleifer wrote that he is intrigued by the idea of a Reed Jobs candidacy. I could be wrong about this, but Reed would be the first billionaire in Congress. What a disgusting idea in general-- and what a disgusting first for a great city like San Francisco.

"Reed," he explained of the "well known" son of privilege, "manages the health investments of Emerson Collective, his family’s hybrid family office, philanthropy and political advocacy shop, and is passionate above all else about efforts to cure cancer, which claimed the life of his father a decade ago. He is also very involved with his family’s nascent climate foundation. But the 30-year-old Jobs also loves politics, and he has long told people that he is definitely interested in running for something down the line, according to people who have talked with him. Sometimes, he has brought up Pelosi’s congressional seat, in particular. One person who has talked politics with him said Reed, as late as early last year, told them that he would strongly consider running for the seat after Pelosi retired."

A few words from Shahid this morning: "It doesn’t surprise me to see news outlets hyping the possible candidacy of a tech millionaire whose money came from through inheritance. The common thread among the candidates promoted by mainstream media outlets is precisely their unearned privilege. Ultimately, democracy requires ethical journalism, and choices for voters who come from outside the class of increasingly empowered oligarchs. Neither Reed Jobs nor Christine Pelosi have any policy experience, nor have either of them ever briefed Congress, organized grassroots coalitions, led advocacy campaigns, or mounted impact litigation efforts, as I have for 20 years. Both have coasted off the coattails of their parents, offering a sad reflection of the decline of our democracy-- and the even worse willingness of journalists to subvert it by openly promoting plutocracy and oligarchy. The depravity of political journalism never ceases to astound me. What explanation justifies editors at Puck News or Politico publishing a story about the inheritor of a tech fortune possibly running for an office without even naming candidates actually in the race? When journalists reduce themselves to being agents of partisan disinformation, it’s ultimately voters and the future-- not just marginalized candidates of color championing the interests of communities and workers-- who pay the price. Sadly, this continuing pattern reflects the widespread abdication of press ethics, the corruption of our democracy, the entrenchment of corporate rule, and a disturbing example of white supremacy, all at once."

Schleifer reached out to the "well known" Reed for his story but couldn't get an interview-- or even a comment. But that didn't keep him from speculating that "he may see an opening for a tech-friendly, pro-science, baggage-free campaign. A political outsider with a $25 billion family fortune and a widely-admired surname shouldn’t be underestimated." Although he did contend that Reed is "well known," he wrote that he doesn't know him personally but did manage to find a friend of Reed's to describe him: "sarcastic, trollish, quirky and nerdy (By way of explanation, one told me he reminds them of the Kieran Culkin character on Succession.)"

He is well-liked internally at the shop, and doesn’t walk around like he owns the place. Most importantly, he is ambitious. While this may be idle chatter at the moment, there’s a whole generation of Silicon Valley heirs now entering their prime who are going to have enormous influence in society. The descendants of the ten richest tech billionaires will have some $1 trillion to spend or misspend in fascinating ways. David Ellison (39) and Megan Ellison (36) have already made their mark in Hollywood as the founders of Skydance Media and Annapurna Pictures, respectively. Emma Bloomberg (42) has been making waves over the last twelve months in political tech circles with her new company, Helm. I mean, what havoc and splendor X AE A-XII Musk (1) will wreak on Earth? So I don’t know whether Reed Jobs will run to succeed Nancy Pelosi-- watch this space-- but trust me, we’ll be hearing from him and his peers.

This has nothing to do with Pelosi's seat but it is so puke-worthy that I couldn't leave it out, since Schleifer included it in his story for good reason: Larry Ellison, one of the most right-wing of the tech billionaires (and the 9th richest man on the planet), "gave more than $15 million last month to a super PAC supporting Tim Scott, the South Carolina Senator and one of the few prominent Black voices in the GOP. As I noted in my recent power ranking of Silicon Valley mega-donors-- catch up here if you missed it-- Ellison is undergoing a late-in-life political renaissance... In the final weeks of the 2020 election, he donated $1 million to Senator Susan Collins, $1 million to Michigan repeat aspirant Josh James, and then $5 million to Scott. Ellison also gave another $5 million to Scott over the summer, bringing his total support for Scott to a staggering $25 million. Ellison has, practically overnight, become one of the G.O.P.’s biggest donors-- more than Peter Thiel, for the record-- and positioned himself as a kingmaker in 2024. Scott has hinted that he would be open to being Donald Trump‘s running mate, but is also widely viewed as a potential presidential candidate if Trump doesn’t run. Either way, having Ellison’s backing makes Scott a formidable player in Republican politics [even if he has zero accomplishments in his career]. The two appear to have become particularly close over the last year or two; in addition to Scott’s reported trip to Ellison’s Hawaiian island early last year, recent F.E.C. spending disclosures from the second half of 2021 reveal even more super PAC receipts at Ellison’s properties, and payments from Ellison for in-kind contributions of lodging and meals, suggesting that the trips to Lanai are becoming a regular occurrence."