Larry Ellison, the billionaire co-founder and chairman of the software company Oracle and the biggest backer of Elon Musk’s attempted Twitter takeover, participated in a call shortly after the 2020 election that focused on strategies for contesting the legitimacy of the vote, according to court documents and a participant.
Ellison’s participation illustrates a previously unknown dimension in the multifaceted campaign to challenge Trump’s loss, an effort still coming into focus more than 18 months later. It is the first known example of a technology industry titan joining powerful figures in conservative politics, media and law to strategize about Trump’s post-loss options and confer with an activist group that had already filed four lawsuits seeking to uncover evidence of illegal voting.
Oracle representatives did not respond to emails, calls and text messages seeking comment.
Ellison is the 11th-richest person in the world, with a net worth of about $85 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He became a major political power broker during the Trump administration, hosting the president in 2020 for a fundraiser at his estate in California’s Coachella Valley and contributing millions to Republican candidates and committees, including to Graham, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.
During the Trump administration, in 2020, Oracle partnered with the Department of Health and Human Services to collect data from doctors treating coronavirus infections with hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malaria drug touted by the president, among other drugs. That fall, it won praise from Trump as a “great company” as it became the preferred U.S. buyer of TikTok, in a potential deal with Chinese company ByteDance that did not come to fruition.
Details of the November 2020 call and questions about Ellison’s role in it were revealed in new filings made in litigation brought against True the Vote and its representatives by Fair Fight, a political action committee associated with the voting rights organization founded by Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.
“Jim was on a call this evening with Jay Sekulow, Lindsey O. Graham, Sean Hannity, and Larry Ellison,” True the Vote’s founder, Catherine Engelbrecht, wrote to a donor on the night of the call, referring to Bopp, her organization’s lawyer. “He explained the work we were doing and they asked for a preliminary report asap, to be used to rally their troops internally, so that’s what I’m working on now.”
Ellison’s participation in the call was confirmed by a participant, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private matters. This person said Ellison, as a technology executive, may have been enlisted to assess claims about voting machines made by Sidney Powell, a onetime member of Trump’s legal team. And the person said the GOP megadonor was probably looped in by Graham, as part of a discussion about whether the Trump campaign had assembled an effective legal team.
When asked why the senator would have sought the technology magnate’s participation, Graham spokesman Kevin Bishop said, “Probably because Ellison supported Trump,” but did not respond to follow-up questions about Ellison’s input and would not say directly whether Graham had invited Ellison.
Bopp, in an interview, said he could not remember all the participants but recalled being asked to join the conversation by Sekulow. He had a different recollection of the call’s purpose than did the other participant.
“The question that I think was being discussed was whether or not congressional hearings on how the 2020 election was being conducted would be beneficial to whatever people were doing,” he said, referring to efforts to uncover evidence that could cause a “change in election results,” as he put it, a pursuit that involved many different groups. “And my opinion was yes.”
Sekulow said his involvement in election-related litigation was limited, largely ending after he helped file a motion with the Supreme Court seeking to separate out mail-in ballots that arrived in Pennsylvania after Election Day from those that had come before. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. granted the motion on Nov. 6. A Fox spokeswoman declined to comment.
It is not clear from the court filings whether Ellison took part in subsequent calls. But his participation puzzled Fred Eshelman, the major donor to True the Vote who received Englebrecht’s email describing the call. In an email to Engelbrecht two days later, he asked for more information about Ellison’s involvement.
“Why was he on call with Senator Graham? Is he part of data/analysis solution, is he a potential large donor, other?” Eshelman wrote in a Nov. 16 email to Engelbrecht and Bopp in advance of a planned call among them.
An Eshelman associate said they never got an answer. The lack of clarity inflamed tensions between Eshelman and True the Vote.
True the Vote’s lawsuits sought expedited discovery of poll lists and other information that the group said could prove that enough illegal votes had been cast to justify blocking certification of the results in numerous states. But the litigation failed to gain immediate traction in courts, Bopp said, and the nonprofit withdrew the complaints on Nov. 16.
The complaints were among scores of unsuccessful post-election lawsuits filed by Trump or his allies. Eshelman became disillusioned with True the Vote’s efforts and sought the return of his $2.5 million donation — suing the nonprofit in federal court and then in Texas state court, where the case was dismissed and is now pending on appeal.
True the Vote has raised its profile significantly in recent weeks by collaborating with conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza on a film that alleges there was widespread “ballot harvesting” in the 2020 election. The film, “2000 Mules,” was shown at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club last month and has become a focal point of ongoing efforts to deny the legitimacy of the election.
Several such claims were dismissed this week by the Georgia State Elections Board, casting doubt on the premise of the movie.
Ellison does not appear to have made public comments about the results of the 2020 vote.
But Oracle has contributed sizable sums to conservative causes, including as much as $499,000 in 2019 to the Federalist Society and as much as $499,000 in 2021 to the Internet Accountability Project, a nonprofit that accuses major technology companies of anti-conservative bias, according to corporate disclosures.
Ellison personally has invested significantly in Republican candidates and causes. He hosted Trump for a fundraiser for his 2020 reelection campaign on the same day the administration took Oracle’s side in a high-stakes copyright dispute with Google unfolding at the Supreme Court. Ellison backed Graham’s reelection in 2018 to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars. And this year, he donated $15 million to a super PAC aligned with Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), among the largest individual contributions this cycle.
This month, Ellison pledged $1 billion to support Musk’s $44 billion Twitter takeover, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. That makes him the largest single backer of the bid, which has been cheered by Trump allies because of comments Musk and his associates have made about loosening rules on content moderation and possibly letting the former president back on the platform.
Ellison stepped down as Oracle’s chief executive in 2014 but remains chairman of its board and chief technology officer. He is also its largest individual shareholder. Ellison joined the board of Tesla, Musk’s electric-car company, in 2018, disclosing that he had purchased 3 million shares earlier that year, which earned him 12 million additional shares in a stock split in 2020. He owns nearly all of the Hawaiian island of Lanai.
“I’ve always been very ambitious; I’ve always been very curious,” Ellison said in a 2018 interview with Maria Bartiromo of Fox Business, describing how he dropped out of college and moved to Silicon Valley to work as a computer programmer, founding Oracle in 1977.
He also praised American democracy.
“We live in a democracy,” he said. “If I don’t like our government, I can vote for somebody else. We have a choice.”