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Paul Allen
Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen is known for his philanthropic contributions to causes such as the University of Washington – and now he’s in the spotlight for political contributions as well. (GeekWire Photo)

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has made his largest-ever contribution to congressional candidates in the form of a $100,000 donation to the Republicans’ “Protect the House” political action committee.

Allen’s contribution, which was made in June and came to light today in a Seattle Times report, could bring further attention to the role of tech leaders in the crucial midterm congressional campaign.

The Protect the House PAC is aimed at supporting House GOP candidates who are facing strong challenges from Democrats in November. Election handicappers say there’s a better-than-even chance that Republicans could lose control of the House, which could have huge implications for the political climate.

Protect the House had previously been in the tech spotlight due to a $38,900 contribution that Elon Musk, the billionaire CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, made in June.

When that donation came to light in July, Musk countered criticism by saying he made the contribution so that GOP lawmakers “are willing to listen when I call to object about issues that negatively affect humanity.”

Representatives for Paul Allen declined to talk with The Seattle Times about the reasoning behind the six-figure contribution to Protect the House — other than to note that the Seattle billionaire has supported candidates on both sides of the aisle.

Democrats such as Reps. Suzan DelBene and Derek Kilmer of Washington, and Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, have benefited from Allen’s contributions this year. But those donations are dwarfed by the $100,000. The Seattle Times’ tally for the 2017-2018 election cycle, based on an analysis of Federal Election Commission filings, puts Allen’s support for Republican candidates and causes at $173,500, compared with $45,900 for the Democratic side.

The FEC filings show that Protect the House distributed Allen’s money among GOP candidates and PACs across the nation. The biggest chunk, $33,900, went to the National Republican Campaign Committee. A PAC created by Vice President Mike Pence, the Great American Committee, received $5,000.

Pence and other GOP leaders, including House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, made a high-profile visit last October to Stratolaunch, Allen’s space venture at California’s Mojave Air and Space Port.

At the time, Stratolaunch tweeted that its executives met with Pence, McCarthy and Rep. Steve Knight, R-Calif., to discuss “the unique opportunities Stratolaunch provides for reliable access to space.”

Pence, who heads the White House’s National Space Council, was quoted as saying during the visit that Mojave was “very much a part of the infrastructure of American space exploration.”

Pence and McCarthy, who represents the congressional district that includes Mojave, share control of the Protect the House fund — which raised more than $13 million as of July.

For what it’s worth, Stratolaunch and Vulcan Aerospace spent at least $755,000 on lobbying efforts last year, according to federal filings tracked by the Center for Responsive Politics. Also for what it’s worth, a $100,000 contribution represents less than 0.0005 percent of Allen’s estimated net worth of more than $20 billion.

Among other tech titans giving six-figure donations to Republican causes is Peter Thiel, who was arguably President Donald Trump’s highest-profile supporter from the tech community during the 2016 campaign. Thiel, a billionaire who co-founded PayPal and was an early investor in Facebook, contributed $101,700 to the Republican National Committee in July.

Allen isn’t the only Seattle-area tech figure who stands out when it comes to federal campaign contributions. FEC filings show that Aviation Partners co-founder and CEO Joe Clark donated $250,000 to various causes associated with the Republican National Committee in January.

A cursory look at FEC records suggests that retired Microsoft President Jon Shirley ranks among the most generous political donors on the Democratic side of Seattle’s tech community, with more than $175,000 in contributions to Democratic candidates and causes so far this year. In addition, his wife Kimberly Shirley has contributed more than $125,000, FEC records suggest.

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