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Tech’s Darling or Democracy’s Dilemma? Zoe Lofgren Runs in Redistricted CA 18

Frank Report Investigative Series

Lofgren Faces a Diverse Electorate in Shuffled District

There is a significant race in Congress this year that deserves a nation’s attention. It is being waged in Southern California.
Zoe Lofgren is the U.S. Representative for the 18th Congressional District. The district, based in San Jose, includes parts of Santa Clara County. Following the 2020 Census, the California Citizens Redistricting Commission dramatically changed the boundaries of the district.

The change had an impact on Silicon Valley and Latino votes. The district was moved to cover the Salinas Valley in Monterey County and the downtown and east side of San Jose and took away Palo Alto, Stanford, Los Gatos, and parts of San Jose. In so doing, it fragmented the dominant tech industry. San Jose, split into multiple districts, shifted demographic representation and political power within Silicon Valley, home to the world’s largest high-tech corporations and one of the wealthiest regions in the world where the future of technology is decided.

With the change, the 18th District is far less Silicon and much more Mexican, and Lofgren is running this coming year, as she has every two years, on even-dated years, since 1994 – so make that 15 times – and she won every one.

This is her 16th run – her second in the newly-changed district.

Dialing for Dollars, Digitally: Lofgren’s Web Push for Campaign Cash

If you go to Zoe Lofgren’s website, you will be greeted with an opportunity to donate. If you wish, you may click on options from $5 to $500 “to get started.” And “If you’ve saved your payment information with ActBlue Express, your donation will go through immediately.” ActBlue Express is offered by the nonprofit technology company ActBlue, which allows people of any political affiliation to save their payment information so they can donate only to Democrat candidates. In that way, you act blue and pay fast – with a single click.

Looking to the left on her home page, we learn that “Zoe helps fund make-or-break races across California. Keep California blue with Zoe. Donate today.”

Her first online greeting to the world is a request for money because she “helps fund make or break races” to keep California blue. Her fundraising is indicative of the old adage that “charity begins at home—on your home page” – for Zoe is involved in funding one true make or break election – her own.

It’s not because Zoe represents everything of the past in Congress that this election is important. She’s been a Congresswoman since 1995—28 years. And she holds key positions in the House of Representatives, like Ranking Member of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, a role that involves guiding Democrats on the committee on how to vote on technology issues.

Decades of Defending Big Tech’s Titans

Lofgren has been against antitrust laws that target Big Tech. In this respect, she gets help from her daughter, who works for Google’s in-house legal team. Some call it a conflict, but as ranking member of the committee that decides issues on Big Tech, who better to keep one informed about Big Tech than a daughter – as the mother tells her Blue Congressmembers how to vote on legislation to curb or not curb the giants of Silicon Valley, her mainstay of her district – before it was redistricted?

Yes, it is a happy coincidence that her daughter, Sheila Zoe Lofgren Collins, serves as in-house corporate counsel at Google. With this bond of mother-daughter relationship, Zoe can help her daughter help Big Tech to slow down and even block bills, all based on good information she gets from having a daughter whose professional role and livelihood depend on Big Tech, and for the biggest and best – the brightest of Big Tech – Google, owned by Alphabet Inc. So alphabetically speaking, Lofgren is O.K.

As we know from her website, she knows how to ask for money. And in her efforts, she’s transparent. She has spoken openly to her Blue-fellows about her ability to fundraise and how important Big Tech is for Big Blue fundraising for make or break elections – like now her own.

She asks for donations for her use to decide where Blue money flows, such as elections that might otherwise elect a candidate not supportive of Big Tech’s bigness. Zoe has become the go-to Blue for Democrats seeking to win with Big Tech money, candidates offering their services if elected to America with help from Big Blue Tech, but promise independence from the largest, most dominant companies – the Big Five – [the three A’s: Amazon, Apple, Alphabet (Google) and the two M’s: Meta (Facebook) and Microsoft] who dominate e-commerce, hardware and software development, social media, cloud computing, content control, digital advertising, and artificial intelligence.

These five have more power arguably than any five congress members, perhaps any president, maybe Congress and the Senate combined.

But be it known, while they don’t all agree on everything, the A’s (Amazon, Apple, and Alphabet) all agree. They find Zoe adorable, while the M’s—Microsoft and Meta—find her marvelous.

Tech Power vs. People’s Choice in Lofgren’s District

While Big Tech has done great good in technological innovation, economic growth, and everyday life, when they get too big, they can change the world and become a government unto themselves—not a government controlling by force, by police and laws, guns and prisons overfilling, but by control of information, by their influence and ability to influence and promote some ideas or people and shadow ban others, Blue or non-Blue. Five now control, but it could in the future be three or two, or even one.

Content control is key to watch. So is Artificial Intelligence (AI). That’s the tiny baby in the cradle you might want to look out for when she grows too big to smother. Data privacy concerns, monopolistic practices, tax avoidance, these are low-impact bugs compared to the influence over public discourse and behavior. Unchecked, a united Big Tech can elect presidents or a Blue Congresswoman from California and turn the tide of public opinion for or against anyone.

Even that may be a low-level detail compared to what Big Tech, with their reach among people and cash to politicians—some of whom they carry around in their pockets, like so many nickels and dimes—can do with AI with the help of Blue Girls like Lofgren, whose 28 years as a dime in the pocket of Silicon Valley has made her and her family wealthy.

Somehow, by a quirk of fortune, now Mexican Americans—not recent immigrants, but families who have been here since when California wasn’t blue, but part of Mexico—will decide Zoe’s future, not Silicon Valley. And it is a relevant future, for she is now in critical control in Congress, and Mexican Americans and others in her newly adjusted district may wish to consider how their interests align with her appetite for Big Tech Blue funding and employment of a daughter.

Zoe’s Choice? Steering the Future in an AI-Dominated World With a Big Tech Acolyte

A point of consideration: If lawmakers cede power to Big Tech’s opportunistic goals of helping the world govern itself better with their innovative advances of AI—based on the grand premise of it being neutral and superior at decision-making by dint of lacking human error—a future with an expanded and, if some have their way, uncontrolled AI development and application, the risk of great advances for humanity is about equal to the risk of extinction, similar to other global threats like pandemics and nuclear war.

Bad actors (who can be seen as good for their willingness to donate to elect Blue candidates) could use AI to literally dominate the world. In time, AI could potentially resist any government control other than what Big Tech dictates, and perhaps AI might get into the hands of a select few who know that in time, AI may escape them too and take actions detrimental to even its creators.

This is not sci-fi horror theater meant to scare you from a nonexistent threat of fantasy fright, but a reality to overtake overnight or through a succession of nights seemingly in a haze of blue but darker than that. AI systems already pose significant privacy risks and produce biased outcomes due to the (biased) data they’re trained on.

AI technologies have led to wrongful arrests, increased surveillance, defamation, identity fraud, and deep-fake pornography. That’s a low-level detail compared to the risk of AI use in official capacities, which could lead to catastrophic outcomes. Data privacy breaches, biased outputs, AI hallucinations, (where AI misinterprets data) are a peripheral component. The key issue is if lawmakers cede power to Big Tech, who in turn lobby to implement AI in official enforceable applications under the bluest of good assumptions of neutrality or superior decision-making, the risks are amplified for extremist results. With democratic government, people have a vote; with Big Tech, there is no vote, no transparency. All we have is Zoe (possibly with her daughter’s help) to guide us into a brave new world of AI unimagined.

A Critical Election Looms

So, yes, this is an important election for no other reason than Zoe is the gatekeeper of Big Tech or, as some like to see it, Big Tech is her gatekeeper—and her district has changed. A new cast of people will decide if this is the woman to trust to maintain careful oversight and regulation of Big Tech and its new world of AI applications.

Though she supports Big Tech, which supports her (and her daughter), and though they buy rivals or push them out of the market, Zoe will tell you, undoubtedly, that she is independent and untroubled by Big Tech’s access to massive amounts of user data, which her critics say they exploit for profit, without user consent. She sees a benefit, perhaps by providing ads from companies who know what you look at online and trying to provide you with their best, most lucrative products based on data their AI learned about you.

Zoe is exceedingly comfortable with Big Tech’s control over digital platforms, with significant influence on public discourse, which can be used for blue candidates who support Big Tech. Content moderation should not be seen, she will undoubtedly argue and make plain on her website, from jaundiced eyes of net neutrality, as de facto limits on speech, but viewed from blue filters with the promise of anti-Blue shadows of shadow banning to limit or completely block that invidious user’s content from being seen by others, partially or completely, without the user being notified. This can be implemented as a force for good, for example, someone opposing a law to bring more power to Big Tech’s innovative new uses of AI—for law enforcement, judicial decisions, or financial opportunity.

A good algorithm with a Big Tech designer in control can guide more people than 100 laws made by Zoe and those she tells how to vote.

Censorship, manipulation of public opinion, limiting the reach of certain opinions, and promoting others is already being done. You don’t need guns or laws. You need to stop laws from regulating that power. That’s where Zoe comes in.

She sees no conflict of interest with her daughter being the lawyer for Google, and she is the ranking member of the committee that controls, or rather tries to control, Big Tech as it controls her.

She represents everything of Congress of the past, and an election is coming with a redistricted district that doesn’t know her well.

There is a make-or-break race for America, and one of the most entrenched persons in Congress is in that race. She has opponents in the primary in March, and then if she wins the primary, as expected, she will have one opponent in the general election.

We will look at the candidates and how little or how much chance they have in our next article.

Meanwhile, if you care to donate to a make-or-break-it candidate, as I am sure some in Silicon Valley will want to do—Zoe’s website offers its greetings to you.