High Tech Goes to DC
Weissman, Robert, Multinational Monitor
The high-tech sector had its Washington, D.C. coming-of-age-party in June.
The newly minted millionaires of Silicon Valley are on track to be major political players. Increasingly, they are abandoning the view that they could ignore government to rapidly deploying their economic power to attain political power and influence on Capitol Hill.
The first venue for the Silicon soiree was a "High Tech Summit" organized by the Congressional Joint Economic Committee. A series of high-tech executives paraded before the Senators and Representatives to offer hosannas for emerging new computer technologies, to plead for particular legislative preferences and to encourage the government to maintain its "light hand" in intervening in the high-tech sector.
Senator Connie Mack, R-Florida, offered a warm embrace, suggesting that "We are now faced with the challenge of De-inventing Government - to get it out of the way before it stifles the Innovation Economy that has made America the world's preeminent economic leader."
Microsoft's Bill Gates addressed a deferential panel of Members of Congress on the second day of the High Tech Summit, propagating his views on technology and society.
The tech executives stayed in town after testifying to lobby Members of Congress. Congressional staff reported that the executives have learned a lot in recent years, and now understand how to relate to elected officials.
And Members of Congress promised to attend to the high-tech executives' legislative wish list. "We will continue to explore legislative options for the issues of concern that were discussed this week - encryption, R&D, education and immigration, to name a few," said Mack.
"We have come to understand in a way that we really had not understood before just how powerful, important and all encompassing the information revolution is," said Senator Bob Bennett, R-Utah, chair of the new Senate High-Tech Task Force. "I expect we will now move forward with high-tech legislation to address some of the proposals that have been made at the Summit."
The proof of the Members' commitment lay in the second venue for the coming out party: the Senate floor. The upper chamber waited for the High Tech Summit to pass the Y2K immunity bill - legislation that will give special protections from lawsuits related to computer systems' inability to process Year 2000 dates properly. …