The Six Major Game Executives Funding the Midterm Elections

The men running Activision Blizzard, Take-Two, Riot Games and more donated more than $60,000 since November 2020.

Six executives from major video game publishers have made more than $60,000 in donations to U.S. Senate and House candidates and political action committees ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, according to data from non-profit OpenSecrets reviewed by The Jacob Wolf Report.

Those six include Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick, Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer, Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick, Riot Games co-founder Marc Merrill, Devolver Digital founder Harry Miller and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment president David Haddad. 

These executives have donated across 13 states to both incumbent Senators and Representatives in both the Republican and Democratic parties, as well as statewide and national PACs with mixed political affiliations.

The most active is Zelnick, a New York resident, who donated $10,750 to exclusively Democrats, including Congressman Eric Swalwell (D-CA), Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). All except Booker are up for reelection this fall.

Schumer received the most donations of anyone on the list, totalling $8,700, sourced from Zelnick, Kotick and Spencer. Second on the list is Senator Todd Young (R-IN), who Kotick donated $2,900 to Young’s individual campaign and $5,000 via Young’s PAC, OORAH! 

Of the bunch, Merrill is the most politically active, co-chairing Colorado-based PAC Unite America, which focuses on government reform. In addition to his work with Unite America, Merrill donated $2,900 to Bennet and $2,900 to Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). 

The maximum amount an individual can contribute to a candidate is $2,900 per election, a cap that several of the game executives hit. For a PAC, donors can contribute $5,000 per year.

While most of the donations went to incumbent members of Congress, several of the executives did support candidates who are challengers. 

Miller donated $1,500 to Scott Sturm, a candidate who lost in the Democratic primary for Texas’ 21st Congressional District in March; and Mandela Barnes, Wisconsin’s Lieutenant Governor, who is running for the Democratic nomination for Senate. Zelnick and Spencer collectively donated $1,750 to Alex Lasry, the son of Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry, who’s running against Barnes for the same nomination.

Of the PACs, the largest donation, $10,000, came from Miller to the Lincoln Project. A set of former Republicans founded the Lincoln Project in 2019 to focus on defeating Republicans, including then-President Donald Trump, in the 2020 and future elections. The PAC endorsed then-candidate Joe Biden in April 2020.

In February, CNBC reported that Kotick donated $500,000 to the Senate Leadership Fund, a Republican-focused Super PAC, in May and October 2020, via a private LLC called Norgate. That company has not yet made any donations in the 2022 election cycle, according to the data from OpenSecrets. 

“[Kotick’s] contributions are focused on candidates and causes primarily in support of veterans issues and specifically veterans employment,” Mark Herr, a public relations representative for Kotick, said in a statement to The Jacob Wolf Report on Tuesday.

In the past, Kotick donated to both Republicans and Democrats over multiple election cycles, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her 2016 campaign for President, and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) during his 2016 reelection campaign. Under Kotick’s leadership, Activision Blizzard has hired officials who served both under President Trump and President George W. Bush as company executives, including former Under Secretary of State Brian Bulatao and Homeland Security Advisor Frances Townsend.

Update June 28, 10:30 a.m. ET: Mark Herr, a spokesperson for Kotick, sent The Jacob Wolf Report a statement on Tuesday addressing Kotick’s political donations and Activision Blizzard’s recently-revised policies to support employees seeking abortions in states that are or will be restricted with the overruling of Roe v. Wade on Friday. A portion of that statement about the intention of Kotick’s donations is now included in this story.

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