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Sept. 17, 2019, 3:03 p.m. EDT

Trump and Obama both set to visit Silicon Valley this week

Former president will speak at Splunk conference, while current president plans to raise funds in Palo Alto

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By Jon Swartz


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President Donald Trump and former President Barack Obama will both visit the Bay Area this week, and former First Lady Michelle Obama will speak at a conference in the region next week.

President Donald Trump and former President Barack Obama are coming to Silicon Valley this week with different agendas: Trump to raise cash, Obama to raise awareness about digital data.

Trump is making a pit stop in Portola Valley, Calif., at the residence of former Sun Microsystems Inc. CEO Scott McNealy on Tuesday for a fundraiser luncheon expected to haul in $3 million before heading to Beverly Hills, Calif., for a similar function, according to his public schedule. On Wednesday, Obama — a frequent visitor to the valley — will sit down with Splunk Inc. /zigman2/quotes/203060494/composite SPLK -1.99%  Chief Executive Doug Merritt to discuss responsible practices around data use as part of a day-long conference held at the software company.

“We’ll ask Mr. Obama about the Importance of data management and decision making,” Merritt told MarketWatch in a phone interview Monday. “He was the first federal official to go hard on open data and apply CIO [chief information officer] functions across government to make informed decisions.”

Merritt, who has submitted 20 questions to the former president’s handlers for review, did not include any about the federal government’s ongoing investigation of four of tech’s biggest players: Alphabet Inc.’s /zigman2/quotes/202490156/composite GOOGL -0.67%    /zigman2/quotes/205453964/composite GOOG -0.60%  Google, Amazon.com Inc. /zigman2/quotes/210331248/composite AMZN -1.68% , Apple Inc. /zigman2/quotes/202934861/composite AAPL +0.48% , and Facebook Inc. /zigman2/quotes/205064656/composite FB -2.38% . Merritt said he made the decision because Obama has shown restraint in commenting on the current administration.

Investigations by the U.S. Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission into the information-gathering habits and business practices of Big Tech are a central theme of Splunk’s data-management event, the first of its kind for the company. Splunk is holding its event to highlight the topic in general and give the public a better understanding of what it does. The San Francisco-based company, on pace to ring up $2.3 billion in revenue this year, has a separate developers conference in Las Vegas in October.

The antitrust suspects: Facebook and Apple appear to be most at risk

Last week, members of the House Judiciary Committee, which is investigating the behavior and market power of the companies, publicly demanded documents including personal emails from CEOs Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Tim Cook of Apple, Larry Page of Google, and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook. Tech companies have also been an issue in the president campaign, with candidates including U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., actively campaigning against those same companies.

Merritt declined to disclose how much his company is paying Obama to appear, but joked, “Shockingly, he was not the most expensive option.”

The coincidental appearances of Trump and Obama, the result of a quirk in schedules, underscores the importance of the region to the national economy and culture. Michelle Obama is scheduled to talk at Dropbox Inc. /zigman2/quotes/205896836/composite DBX -2.77%   next week . The former first lady is scheduled to discuss work-life balance at the company’s “Work In Progress” event.

The political star power descending on Silicon Valley highlights a slew of software conferences coming to San Francisco, and Splunk’s bid to create some buzz of its own. Oracle Corp.’s /zigman2/quotes/202180826/composite ORCL -0.93%  OpenWorld is this week, ahead of Dropbox’s event next week, and Salesforce.com Inc.’s /zigman2/quotes/200515854/composite CRM -1.42%  annual Dreamforce event is scheduled for November.

This story has been updated, with news about the Trump fundraiser.

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Jon Swartz is a senior reporter for MarketWatch in San Francisco, covering many of the biggest players in tech, including Netflix, Facebook and Google. Jon has covered technology for more than 20 years, and previously worked for Barron's and USA Today. Follow him on Twitter @jswartz.

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