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Tina Casey headshot

Oracle Co-Founder Larry Ellison Tests the Limits of Employee Activism

Some employees are shocked over Larry Ellison's political leanings-but that concern is muted as Oracle is competing for lucrative cloud computing contracts.
By Tina Casey

Is anybody really surprised that Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison is planning a fundraiser for U.S. President Donald Trump?

After all, back in 2014 Ellison established his affinity for the Republican party and Libertarian-backed politicians by raising money for Rand Paul, who was then rumored to be a front-runner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. Paul ultimately lost that contest to Trump, who was backed by another well-known Libertarian. Now it seems that some Oracle employees are shocked, repeat, shocked to learn that Ellison has not changed his political stripes.

Ellison supported other presidential candidates before Trump

In the run-up to the 2016 primary elections, Ellison also donated a total of $4 million to a super-PAC supporting Marco Rubio, thereby cementing his reputation as a key Silicon Valley fundraiser for Republican presidential hopefuls.

After Trump won the Electoral College vote, Ellison — and Oracle — continued to maintain ties with the new administration.

Soon after Election Day 2016, Ellison’s co-chair at Oracle, Safra Catz, was invited onto the Trump transition team.

Upon accepting the position, Catz reportedly stated that she would “tell the president-elect that we are with him and will help in any way we can.”

That statement apparently prompted at least one senior executive at Oracle, George Polisner, to resign in protest.

Polisner publicized his objections on his personal Linkedin page, writing in answer to Catz that that (emphasis his) “I am not with President-elect Trump and I am not here to help him in any way.”

In fact,” Polisner continued, “When his policies border on the unconstitutional, the criminal and the morally unjust, I am here to oppose him in every possible and legal way.

Oracle employees react (or not) to Trump fundraiser

Vox reported the news about Ellison’s fundraiser last week, under the headline, “Furious Oracle employees are demanding that Larry Ellison cancel his Trump fundraiser.”

“Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison’s decision to host a fundraiser for Donald Trump next week has awoken the usually passive workforce at his company, angering some employees who are going public with their disgust over Ellison’s actions,” recounted Vox reporter Theodore Schleifer.

Schleifer did interview several Oracle employees who voiced strong opinions about the fundraiser.

As of this writing, though, no reaction of consequence has materialized aside from an internal employee petition and other internal communications.

Public online petitions and open letters have emerged as mainstays of employee activism, but so far none has appeared at Oracle, making it even more unlikely that a Wayfair-style walkout is in the works.

For Oracle, money talks if you’re the alternative to Amazon

In another sign that the fundraiser will probably not prove to be a tipping point for employee activism at Oracle, on February 14 Bloomberg reporter Eric Newcomer noted that there is a direct bottom line connection between Oracle’s business and Ellison’s eagerness to establish financial credibility with the President.

As Newcomer reported, Oracle is “competing with the cloud computing wing of Amazon.com Inc.,” and launched the “anti-Amazon group” Free and Fair Markets Initiative.

“Oracle also worked desperately to derail Amazons bid for JEDI, a lucrative Defense Department cloud contract, going for far as to sue the federal government for illegally favoring Amazon,” Newcomer wrote.

In addition, the President has often been reported to be in a feud with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos over coverage in the Bezos-owned Washington Post.

“Now, Ellison is making friends with his enemys enemy, who happens to be the President of the United States,” Newcomer wrote.

To underscore the point, the website banner for Ellison’s Free and Fair Markets Initiative depicts what can best be described as an Amazon worker street protest.

If Oracle employees engage in any similar action it will truly mark a tipping point.

As of now the expectations are slim to none.

Image credit: Oracle PR/Wiki Commons

Tina Casey headshot

Tina writes frequently for TriplePundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes.

Read more stories by Tina Casey