TikTok Bid Highlights Oracle’s Public Embrace of Trump

TikTok Bid Highlights Oracle’s Public Embrace of Trump

WASHINGTON — In March, when the Trump administration ordered up a study enabling the widespread release of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid-19, one of the first questions the director of a government research agency that would oversee the trial asked was: “Who has talked with Oracle?”

The Silicon Valley powerhouse had already started to prepare to help with collecting data about the drug, and its founder, Larry Ellison, talked to President Trump about its possible use.

Some tech companies may have shied away from helping to test a drug that many medical experts said had potentially dangerous side effects and might not even work for Covid-19 cases. But Oracle, a business software giant founded in 1977, is a prominent ally of Mr. Trump, whose administration was invested in the drug’s use.

Oracle’s involvement in the planned drug study was its latest effort to aid the president and his administration. The company has also backed the administration’s trade plans and its positions on major tech policy issues, and its executives played roles in Mr. Trump’s transition team in 2016 and have backed his re-election campaign.

A spokeswoman for Oracle, Deborah Hellinger, declined to comment. The White House also declined to comment.

Oracle has pursued TikTok with some of the app’s American investors, like the private equity firm General Atlantic and the venture capital firm Sequoia Capital. The other bidding group includes Microsoft and Walmart.

There is already a pitched corporate lobbying battle over the possible sale. Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president, traveled to Washington last month to talk with White House officials and lawmakers on Capitol Hill about how the company would assuage concerns if it bought the app. Oracle announced that it was joining the State Department’s Clean Network program, which is aimed at combating China’s influence over global technology.

Oracle spent $8.21 million on federal lobbying and employed 59 lobbyists last year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. In comparison, Google spent $12.78 million and Microsoft $10.3 million. Oracle’s Washington office is run by Ken Glueck, who in the 1990s was an aide to Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, a Democrat from Connecticut.

It has used that influence operation to pursue a small number of rivals with grudge-match intensity. For years, it has been locked in a lawsuit with Google over an obscure copyright question. It has not just attacked the company over the case, but has dogged it with antitrust questions and produced technical research on what it says are Google’s abuses of consumer data. Oracle also competed with Amazon for a $10 billion military contract and accused the retailer of trying to rig the process.

Its close ties with the White House, though, are what really make it stand out in Silicon Valley.

While many companies were caught off guard by Mr. Trump’s victory in 2016, Oracle had begun to build relationships in his political universe shortly before Election Day, said one person familiar with its approach. The person would speak only on the condition of anonymity because the discussions were private. Safra Catz, Oracle’s chief executive, was the only major tech executive to join the executive committee of the Trump administration’s transition team, the group that prepares policies and plans before a new administration takes office. (Peter Thiel, a venture capitalist and Facebook board member, also served on the committee.) Mr. Glueck also joined the broader transition team.

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