One day in February about 40 noisy protesters gathered outside the home of Facebook cofounder Mark Zuckerberg in Palo Alto in California's Silicon Valley. They chanted slogans and held up signs as a small, select group of people arrived in sleek sports cars and were ushered inside the relatively modest residence where the billionaire lives with his wife, Priscilla Chan.

It must have been an unusual experience for Zuckerberg, 28, whose position as head of Facebook is more likely to inspire admiration or plain curiosity from ordinary Americans rather than outraged, placard-waving demonstrators shepherded by local police. But this was no ordinary party Zuckerberg was holding. It was his first political fundraiser and his choice of candidate raised eyebrows: the Republican governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie.

Under the gaze of the protesters, Republican bigwigs such as Condoleezza Rice started arriving to pay homage to — and write checks for — a governor who has taken stances against gay marriage and raising taxes on rich people while embarking on a union-bashing crusade against teachers in his home state.