Silicon Politics: Tech-friendly candidates court Silicon Valley

By December 14, 2007

They come and go, one after the other, asking for voters’ support, getting big chunks of cash from business executives, speaking the language of techies, advocating open source and net neutrality. A land of great minds and huge am

ounts of capital, Silicon Valley has become an obligatory campaign stop for those seeking to conquer the White House. Google may be the most visited site in cyberspace but it has also become the place to be seen for presidential hopefuls from John McCain and Ron Paul on the right to Hillary Rodham Clinton, John Edwards and Barack Obama on the left who have all been invited to its Mountain View Campus to preach their Gospel. Political analysts across the country seem to agree on one thing: a visit to the Google headquarters has become the 21st-century equivalent of the tour of the General Motors plant. In a commentary published in the Arizona Republic, Joel Kotkin, an Irvine Senior Fellow with the New American Foundation, wrote that “Power in America is shifting from George Bush’s Sun Belt mafia -with its roots in post 1950s aerospace, energy and development- to a new political triad. This new triad draws its power from three key post-industrial power centers: technology, entertainment and finance (read Silicon Valley, Hollywood and Wall Street).” An example of videos you can watch of the Candidates@Google on the Google Public Policy Blog   Should one rely solely on fundraising data Barack Obama, the youngest of the bunch, has already conquered Silicon Valley. According to numbers collected by the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan US research group which tracks money in politics, senator Obama has raised $940,459 from people working in the computer and internet industry (based on Federal Election Commission data released at the end of October) followed closely by Senator Clinton with $883,125. Republican candidate Mitt Romney comes third with $555,502 followed by Rudolph Giuliani ($310,795) and John McCain ($252,675). (see the charte) According to Don Fowler, CEO of a global technology company based in Silicon Valley, who is also a Democratic political consultant, “Because of its bipartisanship, Silicon Valley doesn’t fit neatly into either the Democratic or the Republican party. People in Silicon Valley are not for big government but at the same time they fundamentally believe that there are things the government must do that the free market can’t. After all, the government invented the internet. And Silicon Valley understands the need for infrastructure whether it’s a good school or a good road,” he says. When asked to explain Senator Obama’s popularity among the Silicon Valley crowd, Fowler answers: “Silicon Valley is always about finding the next new thing and Obama is the next new thing: He’s young, fresh, innovative about his politics. He’s the new idea.” Fowler, who nevertheless supports Hillary Clinton, notes that Clinton’s essential appeal in the valley comes from the fact that the dotcom boom happened when her husband was president. “The Clinton administration really supported technology because of Al Gore’s leadership,” he argues. For Jim Hock, a spokesman for TechNet, the bipartisan, political network of CEOs and senior executives that promotes the growth of technology and the innovation economy, the main Democratic candidates are benefiting from an “Al Gore effect”. The former vice-president and Nobel Prize winner is a rock star in the valley where clean teach has become the new frontier -witness his recent appointment as partner at Kleiner Perkins, Silicon Valley’s most famous venture firm, with a mission to save the planet. But Hock is quick to point out that, on the Republican side, some candidates have the support from big names in the valley: for example, John Chambers, the head of Cisco Systems, is advising John McCain while Meg Whitman, eBay’s CEO, is backing Mitt Romney. Another less-known candidate, former Libertarian turned Republican Ron Paul, who broke a fundraising record by raising $4.2 million online in a single day, and advocates, among others, an immediate pullout from Iraq and the abolition of the Department of Education and Internal Revenue Service, is attracting big crowds in Silicon Valley. Says Don Fowler: “To watch his popularity is a really powerful statement about Silicon Valley politics.” By Anne Sengès, for Atelier   FEEDBACK For comments on this article, email us at

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