Larry Ellison — the founder and CEO of the tech company Oracle — gave $250,000 to a super PAC supporting Lindsey Graham amidst the shaky but successful negotiations for a deal for Oracle to provide U.S.-based cloud computing services for the social media app TikTok. The Trump administration had demanded action over TikTok’s Chinese ties, which come through its original parent company ByteDance, which is based in Beijing. Graham has insisted that he personally advocated to President Trump to allow the sale of TikTok to a U.S. firm rather than shut down the app entirely — although it’s unclear if Graham intervened in negotiations at the point when specific proposals including Oracle’s were under consideration.
The recipient of Ellison’s major donation was the Security is Strength PAC, which has supported Graham through his current re-election campaign and even through his ultimately unsuccessful campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. According to federal campaign finance records, Ellison made his donation on September 14, and the donation was recorded hours after Oracle had been publicly announced as the U.S. technology partner for TikTok. Oracle was, unsurprisingly, “set to receive a significant contract from the embattled app,” The Verge reports.
Did Ellison’s huge donation to Graham have something to do with the success of the business partnership between Oracle and TikTok? Was it a “thank you” message to Graham for potentially supporting his company during negotiations? The Verge notes that Graham “was reportedly pivotal in arranging the deal, although it’s unclear if he had any influence over the specific companies involved” in the process to bring TikTok under the purview of U.S.-based operations. Graham has said that he told Trump to “put [TikTok] in American hands and allow the platform to survive and thrive because so many people enjoy it,” and the Senator has also insisted that “if TikTok is saved, you can thank me.”
The Trump administration has alleged that allowing TikTok’s Chinese ties to stand would have made American data vulnerable to potential influence from Chinese authorities over the app’s parent company, but there is no apparent tangible evidence for this claim — it’s just conjecture, it seems. The Trump administration has consistently sought to antagonize China on frequently racially-tinged grounds through means like blaming the country’s government for the Coronavirus pandemic, which the president’s team has even occasionally sought to characterize as some kind of attack against the U.S.