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Should People Care Whether or Not Elon Musk Donates to Super PACs?

Josie Rhodes Cook
Actions speak louder than words, and money talks.

News broke on July 14 that Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, SpaceX, and Neuralink, had contributed $33,900 to a Republican PAC named Protect the House. Very quickly, Musk denied that he donates to “super PACs”, and called any reports that he is a top donor to the GOP “categorically false.”

Indeed, Musk donates to a lot of PACs (or political action committees), so it’s a little misleading that he tweeted that he has never donated to a super PAC. On Saturday, American statistician Nate Silver tweeted a list of Musk’s donations to political entities since late 2010 (excluding Musk’s most recent contribution, which isn’t included in the data yet). Those donations include contributions to lots of Democratic and Republican candidates and PACs.

And at least one on the list, the Democratic Midterm Victory Fund, is categorized by OpenSecrets as a hybrid PAC/super PAC.

It’s true that it’s not totally fair to claim that Musk is a “top donor” to the GOP when he makes a lot of donations to all sorts of causes. In fact, Musk pointed out that he donates significantly more to the Sierra Club, a nonprofit environmental group. The data is clear that Musk doesn’t exclusively donate to one political party or any one cause.

Musk has previously proclaimed himself a socialist, but the donation records Silver shared show that some of the causes he donates to are not particularly socialist in nature. He’s donated thousands to Republican Lindsey Graham, but he’s also donated thousands to President Barack Obama and other Democrats. He’s given to the Future Leaders PAC, a Republican group, in the same month he donated to Democrat Bill Nelson.

When Musk tweeted that he donated less to other groups than to the Sierra Club, he said the number was “a reasonable amount to maintain an open dialogue.” For Musk, these donations may be more about having influence in all sorts of areas, and not putting all his SpaceX eggs in one basket.

It’s not unusual for millionaires or billionaires to give to political causes, and Musk is far from the only one to do so. Bloomberg published a report Monday of other people with money and power similar in scope to Musk who have given millions to various political entities.

Musk’s donations don’t always line up with his statements about his political beliefs and philanthropic efforts. Protect the House, for instance, is dedicated to keeping Republicans in control of Congress, Salon reports. While many Republicans deny the science of climate change, Musk appears to support groups like the Sierra Club in fighting against it.

So does Musk truly think he can have it both ways, or does he just give money to whichever causes he wants some measure of influence over, regardless of whether they contradict each other? Does it really matter that Musk says he doesn’t donate to super PACS, if his actions speak louder than words?

Inverse did not immediately receive a response from Musk or his representation regarding his political contribution history by press time.

Photos via Twitter (1, 2, 3), JW Player

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