Nov 16, 2015 ยท 4 minutes

Last week, I wrote about the hypocrisy of high profile San Francisco tech figures and their willingness to engage in the same political games – and dirty tricks – that they once pledged to “disrupt.”

In particular, I wrote about Ron Conway’s behavior during the recent San Francisco municipal elections: Instructing his portfolio CEOs and their employees how to vote, promising quid pro quos to donors if they support his pet causes and threatening dire consequences if they did not. [Disclosure: Conway is an investor in Pando]

The piece was one of our highest read of the week, but you wouldn’t know that from the Twitter feeds of San Francisco tech execs. Privately, they were willing to agree with conclusions – so many emails, so many texts! - but none dared so much as retweet the piece, lest some of those dire consequences head their way. "I don't want to get in a public fight with Ron, but just wanted to say..." 

Meanwhile, the pro-Conway camp was less reticent, with folks like John C Dvorak accusing me of writing a “hit piece” against Uncle Ron.

I'm SHOCKED, SHOCKED that politics is going on in San Francisco. This looks like a hit piece if you ask me. https://t.co/kyXWdSExfe.

— John C. Dvorak (@THErealDVORAK) November 10, 2015

Dvorak’s rebuttal was a familiar one: Everyone knows San Francisco politics is corrupt, so why shouldn't tech leaders play along?

By far my favourite email, however, came from Brian Mulvaney, Chief Strategist at CrossFit. Mulvaney didn’t defend Conway’s behavior, nor did he condemn it: Rather, using the same libertarian pragmatism displayed by his colleague Greg Glassman at a recent PandoMonthly, Mulvaney had figured out a way to use it to his advantage.

Mulvaney says that reading my piece, he realized that Conway’s effectiveness at forcing through his pet issues could be really useful in CrossFit’s fight against Coke and Pepsi. Those soda giants, in the guise of the American Beverage Association, are currently suing the city of San Francisco and Mulvaney wants to join forces with city politicians to fight them together.

Writes Mulvaney:

We are on the road through next week rallying our California gym owners to support SB203 the sugary beverage warning label bill:

http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/crossfit-launches-california-invasion-tour-to-rally-against-big-soda-300175011.html

After that's done we'll seek a meeting with Ron Conway. We are in strange bedfellows mode on this issue. Your essay has made us aware of Conway's effectiveness--we aren't overly troubled by his hypocrisy.

Would you and Sarah like to report on a meeting between Ron Conway and Greg Glassman? It will be great theater. Would you like to broker a meeting?

You’re reading that correctly. My criticism of Conway’s political trickery had the unintended consequence of also convincing Mulvaney and CrossFit of Conway's effectiveness. So now he wants me to set up a meeting in the hope of convincing Conway to use that same effectiveness to help their own cause.  

I wrote back to Mulvaney saying I certainly wasn’t going to be part of any secret backchannel introduction between anyone and Conway. But if Mulvaney would allow me to publish his email on Pando, then I’d be glad to also forward it along. (Actually, I’ve asked Sarah to do it – there’s next to zero chance of Conway responding positively to any message from me.) To his infinite credit, Mulvaney agreed, enthusiastically.

So, here’s the email. And of course I intend to take Mulvaney up on his offer to attend, and report on, the meeting.

Paul,

I loved your rant on the hypocrisy of tech in politics. It's also a great tactical road map for CrossFit in forming alliances on a matter of strategic importance. So thank you for both. I've shared it with our brain trust working our fight with Big Soda.

Ironically, the City of San Francisco is actually up against an "entrenched industry cartel" in the form of the American Beverage Association (Coke + Pepsi) which is suing the city:

http://journal.crossfit.com/2015/08/big-soda-fires-back.tpl

The ABA wants to try the science of sugar. Using bought and paid for science advocacy, Big Tobacco style. This is going to be the Scopes trial of the 21st Century. It's fitting that San Francisco is the venue as the UCSF Medical School is the global leader in truthful research into sugar metabolism and public health advocacy on its negative effects. UCSF has born the brunt of efforts by the ABA to block research, intimidate participants and derail careers. Those efforts haven't succeeded: UCSF was the first hospital and university to remove sugary beverages from their facilities. Others are now following.  Amazingly to us, there is very little awareness of this issue in San Francisco, particularly within the tech community. We aim to change that. It's imperative that San Francisco prevail in this matter.

We are on the road through next week rallying our California gym owners to support SB203 the sugary beverage warning label bill:

http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/crossfit-launches-california-invasion-tour-to-rally-against-big-soda-300175011.html

After that's done we'll seek a meeting with Ron Conway. We are in strange bedfellows mode on this issue. Your essay has made us aware of Conway's effectiveness--we aren't overly troubled by his hypocrisy.

Would you and Sarah like to report on a meeting between Ron Conway and Greg Glassman? It will be great theater. Would you like to broker a meeting?

Best Regards,

Brian