“You better consider the economic consequences of your social and political advocacy,” Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff warned conservative states.
It was 2016 and the smirking bearded billionaire was fresh off his war against conservative states, most notably Indiana, which had dared to pass laws protecting religious freedom against his wishes.
The portly billionaire with a scraggly beard and a social justice brand that covers his ruthlessness in his business dealings responded by announcing a boycott of Indiana until it backed off religious freedom.
That same year, the Hillary Clinton backer also decided to threaten the state of Georgia.
“Salesforce’s Marc Benioff Has Kicked Off New Era of Corporate Social Activism,” the Wall Street Journal gushed. “Salesforce’s Benioff is brave to fight for social justice,” the Telegraph twittered.
“CEOs have the ability to use their businesses as a platform for change,” Benioff had declared.
Change is supposed to happen via the ballot box, and the corporate coup against representative government that corporate activism represents is a fundamental threat to a free country.
“The AR-15 is the most popular rifle in America. Ban it,” Benioff had tweeted in 2018.
A year later, Salesforce, a dominant force in the CRM space, banned businesses that sell a variety of firearms from using its force. Salesforce’s war against the First Amendment had transitioned smoothly from a campaign against the Second Amendment using its power as leverage.
And that power and leverage are about to get a whole lot more so with the Tableau deal.
Estimates are that Salesforce’s acquisition of Tableau Software may increase its revenues from $13 billion to $22 billion. And, more significantly, make the social justice company even more dominant.
The anti-trust argument against Salesforce isn’t as straightforward as it would be against Google, Facebook or Amazon, which have far more dominant positions, but curiously it comes from Benioff.
In 2016, Benioff and Salesforce went to war, not just against conservatives, but against Microsoft.
Microsoft had just snapped up LinkedIn for $26.2 billion and Benioff, who had wanted the company, threw out all the stops trying to fight the deal, accusing his opponent of anti-competitive behavior.
“Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of LinkedIn threatens the future of innovation and competition,” Salesforce’s legal honcho had argued. “By gaining ownership of LinkedIn’s unique dataset of over 450 million professionals in more than 200 countries, Microsoft will be able to deny competitors access to that data, and in doing so obtain an unfair competitive advantage.”
Benioff complained to Recode that a Microsoft executive was talking about combining all the data together to create “essentially a barrier to entry for other players in business productivity, where they have a monopoly or other markets”.
That’s an argument against the Salesforce and Tableau deal.
Benioff’s bid for the EU to block Microsoft’s purchase of LinkedIn failed because, unlike Salesforce, its target had a very limited presence in the CRM marketplace. As the Commission noted, “Microsoft is a relatively small player in the customer relationship management market, where it faces strong competitors, such as Salesforce, the clear market leader, Oracle and SAP.”
A small player can’t be accused of trying to block innovation and competition. The biggest player can.
Indeed, the legal team representing Salesforce in the Tableau deal included lawyers from anti-trust.
Lately, Benioff has been quite enthusiastic about a government crackdown on the tech industry. “We are in a point in our industry where enough is enough, and we need to get the value straight with these tech companies,” he argued.
And he might be right.
But while Benioff wants to see a crackdown on his rivals and competitors, there’s no apparent reason why Salesforce should be exempted from the close scrutiny of regulators over its dominant position.
Benioff has urged that Facebook should be regulated “the same way you regulated the cigarette industry.” Why shouldn’t his own monstrous company be treated like the cigarette industry?
The radical billionaire is a major political donor. And some politicians will try to protect Salesforce.
Politico reported that Salesforce had funneled millions into Clintonworld, paying Hillary $450,000 for speeches, donating $6 million to the Clinton Global Initiative and hundreds of thousands to their foundation, and had lobbied the State Department, during her tenure, on its own business issues.
Salesforce and Benioff are savvy about getting what they want. But will Americans pay the price?
Meanwhile Benioff is signaling that he will double down on exploiting the power of Salesforce to serve his radical political agenda at the expense of ordinary Americans who are no match for his might.
The description for Trailblazer, his humbly titled new book, declares, “At Salesforce, the aim was to take decisions that were not only good for business, but also for society as a whole, and this book will show you how to make these positive steps. Benioff believes that, in future, the only businesses that will thrive are those that take an active role in making the world a better place.”
There are lots of ways to make the world a better place. Donate to charity. Clean up your block. But Benioff’s way of intimidating and crushing the civil rights of individuals has no place in America.
Regulations exist to prevent companies like Salesforce from gaining too much power over Americans.
The question is whether they will be applied or whether Salesforce will continue getting a pass while its victims, across the country, continue to suffer from the disproportionate power differential between Benioff’s billions and a small business owner in Indiana or a gun shop owner in Georgia.
Benioff remains confident that Salesforce can’t be stopped, but he’s been wrong before.
In 2016, he told the Huffington Post that he wasn’t worried about his candidate, Hillary Clinton, losing the election. “I don’t think there’s any way Donald Trump will be president.”
Donald Trump is president and as Salesforce embarks on its latest expansion, the administration has signaled that it is no longer going to give Silicon Valley a pass. Salesforce may not be the best known of San Francisco’s uglier dot coms, but those who have faced its abusive behavior know its name.
What’s at stake in the debate is whether the country is run by the voters or by Marc Benioff.
“Our government leaders tend to be a little weaker than they were, CEOs have to step up and be a little stronger and have a bigger voice,” Benioff had insisted.
As Salesforce grows more monstrous, its voice deafens the democratic process and it’s up to elected officials to show whether they’re going to be weak in the face of Benioff’s bullying or take a stand.
“The Salesforce CEO is a corporate bully,” Dan Forest, lieutenant governor for North Carolina, had warned.
Will the White House stand up to the bully?
Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.