“Greer lives in San Francisco but brought his family to New York for the fall. A weekend of legal gambling is only a $44 Greyhound ticket away. On the day we meet, Greer, who’s 43, is wearing blue jeans and a blue sweater, plus a few patches of orange-gray scruff on his face. A veteran of the video-game industry, he’s in many ways an archetypal Silicon Valley entrepreneur: He became incredibly rich before turning 40, he meditates with the help of an iPhone app, and he’s “not a big believer in government institutions, honestly.”
In August, despite that distrust of government—or, rather, because of it—Greer became the latest tech heavyweight to make a major political play. He created CounterPAC, a super PAC designed to force congressional candidates to reject undisclosed donations, or at least to reveal the sources of their campaign cash. If candidates in targeted races open their books, nothing happens. If they refuse, CounterPAC “money-bombs” them with negative ads about their reliance on what has become known as dark money.
Like many of his tech-world colleagues, Greer exhibits a default disdain for both political parties; he voted for President Obama in 2008 but has since latched on to Rand Paul’s more antiestablishment brand of politics. When it comes to Republicans versus Democrats, he says, CounterPAC will be agnostic. “I don’t care if you’re David Koresh, or, you know, the Klan, or Stalin,” he says. “If you are willing to forgo all dark money in your campaign, then you’ve met our requirements.”
Greer sees a connection between his interest in dark money and his gambling habit. “I like games, I like poker,” he says. “Politics is a game. How do I make the game work better?” But why choose this game, rather than any other? Why is someone with libertarian leanings getting involved with something as thoroughly un-libertarian as campaign finance reform? Greer’s explanations include: “I thought about trying to do something in education, but a whole lot of people are already doing that,” and, with a grin, “megalomania.” But he also admits that he can be drawn to what he and Internet critic Evgeny Morozov mockingly call “solutionism.” “Nerds like me who’ve been successful in technology are probably delusionally willing to look at a broken system and say, ‘We can make it better.’ ”