Musk Breezes Through Washington as Smooth CEO, Not Twitter Troll | Tech News

Musk Breezes Through Washington as Smooth CEO, Not Twitter Troll

On Twitter, Elon Musk is a right-leaning, irreverent firebrand. In Washington, he’s a smooth political operator who knows his way around power.

By:BLOOMBERG
| Updated on: Jan 29 2023, 10:43 IST
Elon Musk Twitter Bankruptcy Talk: Timeline
Elon Musk
1/13 He’s told employees to brace themselves for long hours, that “the road ahead is arduous and will require intense work to succeed,” and said bankruptcy was possible. Here’s how the saga is unfolding: (Bloomberg)
Elon Musk
2/13 Oct. 27: Musk takes control- His first act is to fire the Board along with CEO Parag Agrawal, CFO Ned Segal, head of legal Vijaya Gadde and Counsel Sean Edgett. Musk forms advisory team that includes celebrity attorney Alex Spiro, VC David Sacks, Neuralink CEO and head of Musk’s family office Jared Birchall, investor Jason Calacanis, and partner of Andreessen Horowitz Sriram Krishnan. (Reuters)
Elon Musk
3/13 Oct. 28: Brands begin to take pause- As Musk plans to unban accounts and says he will charge for user verification, advertisers suspend ads. (AFP)
Elon Musk
4/13 Oct. 31: Top tweeters protest- Amid murmurings of plans to charge existing verified accounts, author Steven King tweets, “$20 a month to keep my blue check? F**k that, they should pay me. If that gets instituted, I’m gone like Enron.” (AFP)
Elon Musk
5/13 Nov. 1: Teams working around the clock- The product team works over the weekend on Musk’s idea to charge users for blue check marks. A photo of product director Esther Crawford sleeping on the floor of a conference room, trying to make the deadline, goes viral. Meanwhile, managers are asked to make lists of who can be fired. Employees print out their software code for review by Musk and engineers from Tesla, to determine if their contributions are worthy of keeping a job. (REUTERS)
Elon Musk
6/13 Nov. 3: Massive layoffs begin- A memo is sent to all employees telling them of imminent layoffs and to watch for an email with the subject line: “Your Role at Twitter.” Badge access to offices is suspended as 3,700 staffers receive word that they’ve been cut. Realizing employees essential for the continuity of the business have been let go by mistake, some are asked to come back. (AP)
Elon Musk
7/13 Co-founder EV Williams tweets, “Heart’s out to the tweeps getting laid off today.” Co-founder Jack Dorsey adds, “I realize many are angry with me. I own the responsibility for why everyone is in this situation: I grew the company size too quickly. I apologize for that.” (REUTERS)
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8/13 Nov. 5-6: Musk responds to celebrity protests- Unrest grows on the platform over the weekend, particularly over the issue of impersonator accounts. Actress Valerie Bertinelli starts a movement of people changing their Twitter names to “Elon Musk.” Comedian Kathy Griffin joins the protest, finds her account locked. Then Musk announces, “Going forward, any Twitter handles engaging in impersonation without clearly specifying `parody’ will be permanently suspended.” (AP)
Elon Musk
9/13 Nov. 8: Musk sells more Tesla- Despite a previous vow not to sell any more Tesla stock, Musk sells an additional $3.95 billion, bringing the total sold in past year to $36 billion. (REUTERS)
Elon Musk
10/13 Nov. 9: Musk Blue tick mark- Blue check mark option becomes available for purchase, and immediately becomes a tool for impersonators. An account masquerading as Nintendo Inc. posts an image of Super Mario holding up a middle finger. (REUTERS)
Elon Musk
11/13 Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, and a close cadre of advisers are considering a host of changes to the way Twitter is run and makes money. (REUTERS)
Elon Musk
12/13 Nov. 10: More key executives quit as Musk warns of bankruptcy- In his first meeting with employees, Musk tells them to brace for 80-hour weeks and requires everyone back in the office full time. He also says bankruptcy for the company is not out of the question if it doesn’t start generating more cash. Several executives in charge of keeping Twitter safe and accountable to its users quit, including chief information security officer Lea Kissner, chief privacy officer Damien Kieran and chief compliance Marianne Fogarty.. (AFP)
Elon Musk
13/13 Nov. 11: Verified accounts get “Official” tags- Twitter adds badges that say “offiical” to verified accounts in some places, though confusion abounds. More brands depart the platform. (REUTERS)
Elon Musk
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Musk Breezes Through Washington as Smooth CEO, Not Twitter Troll. (Getty Images via AFP)

On Twitter, Elon Musk is a right-leaning, irreverent firebrand. In Washington, he's a smooth political operator who knows his way around power. The chief executive officer of SpaceX, Tesla Inc. and Twitter Inc. slipped into Washington under the radar this week and popped up in the offices of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and some senior House Republicans, who are about to begin investigations of President Joe Biden's administration and family as well censorship on social media.

He didn't neglect Democrats, however. Musk tweeted that he met with Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries and on Friday sat down with top White House officials in charge of implementing the Democrats' Inflation Reduction Act.

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This version of Musk belies the image of an executive as impulsive tweeter. He knows how to work both sides.

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Republicans, who just control one chamber of Congress, have little power beyond a messaging platform and the ability to hold up some bills. Democrats, who hold the White House, Senate and control federal agencies are the ones with influence over the new electric car tax credits that could affect both Tesla's profits and Musk's personal fortune.

The visit to Washington comes in a busy — and controversial — week for Musk.

On Tuesday, he wrapped up three days of testimony in federal court in San Francisco as part of a long-running shareholder lawsuit over his failed 2018 attempt to take Tesla private. He then flew to Nevada for an event with Republican Governor Joe Lombardo, where Tesla announced $3.6 billion in additional investment in the state for battery production and manufacturing of its Class 8 electric Semi truck.

He's also under scrutiny by the US Securities and Exchange Commission over his role in shaping Tesla's self-driving car claims, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Musk, 51, is famously impatient with government bureaucracy, but he is not a Washington outsider. His automotive, space exploration and social media companies operate in highly regulated environments.

Tesla recently slashed prices on many of its vehicles so that they would qualify for the federal tax credits. Though Musk has denounced tax credits in the past, the lower prices and potential for consumers to qualify for the federal tax credit will likely bolster demand for Tesla's vehicles amid competition from other automakers.

Musk, whose net worth is largely tied up in Tesla stock and options, last year became the the first person in history to have $200 billion erased from their personal fortune, according to the Bloomberg Billionaire's Index. He's since recovered slightly, now worth $155.7 billion, but down from a $340 billion peak in 2021.

He met with several members of Congress on Capitol Hill Thursday and Friday. Besides dropping in on McCarthy, he saw Oversight Chair James Comer and Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan.

Comer has set a Feb. 8 public hearing to pursue a conservative sore point: the decision by Twitter in October 2020, before it was owned by Musk, to restrict access to a New York Post article about a laptop purportedly owned by Hunter Biden, the president's son and a prime focus of Comer's committee.

McCarthy remarked on Thursday that Musk had come “to wish me a happy birthday.” On Friday, he said they spoke about how Twitter can be fair to both parties, adding that Musk's “whole thing” is about respecting the First Amendment.”

Jeffries' office declined to comment on their meeting.

Musk didn't get a White House invitation, but two top Biden aides, John Podesta and Mitch Landrieu, met with him at Tesla's Washington office on Friday.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre called the encounter “important,” though she omitted any direct mention Musk or his companies.

“I think the outreach and the meeting says a lot of how important the president thinks the bipartisan infrastructure legislation is, and how the Inflation Reduction Act is, especially as it relates to EVs,” she said.

The Treasury Department is still working out the regulations that will determine which car models qualify for the tax credits, giving Musk a window to influence the final product.

Democrats kept Musk at arms length this week. He has praised Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2024, and predicted that he could defeat Biden, who rarely mentions Musk or Tesla when he discusses electric vehicles and the automobile industry. White

Musk hasn't invested much of his wealth in politics, donating just $529,000 since 2009, Federal Election Commission records show. He's given both to Democrats and Republicans, but his giving has shifted more toward the GOP in recent years. He hasn't made a donation since 2020, FEC filings show.

Committees connected to McCarthy have received $129,000 from Musk, more than he gave any other politician. McCarthy called Musk “a good friend of mine” in a lengthy floor speech he gave in November.

Musk has tweeted that he's a registered independent and politically moderate, though he does feel passionate about some issues including the environment. He's also said that his political contributions are a tiny fraction of the amount he gives to the Sierra Club.

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First Published Date: 29 Jan, 10:24 IST
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