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Former congressman to head TechNet

Former Rep. Rick White has been tapped as the new CEO of the Silicon Valley-based technology lobbying group.

    Former Rep. Rick White has been tapped as the new CEO of TechNet, the Silicon Valley-based technology lobbying group.

    White served in Congress from 1995 to 1998, representing the Washington state district that includes Microsoft. He will replace Jeff Modisett and Lezlee Westine, who were promoted to acting co-CEOs after Roberta Katz left the post last summer.

    While in Congress, White founded the Internet Caucus, a group organized to educate Congress members about Web issues. He also pushed legislation to crack down on online smut, defer Internet taxes, and ease encryption export restrictions.

    In October 1999, he waged an unsuccessful bid for a seat on the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.

    After leaving Congress, White became a partner at the Seattle law firm Perkins Coie.

    He will resign from that position--as well as his post as general counsel for OneName--in order to become TechNet CEO.

    White is the first TechNet leader to come directly from the political world, and his insider status could help the group negotiate the Hill, something that hasn't come easily to tech groups.

    "I'd like us to be influential in government, but do it in a different way than other technology lobby groups," he said. Too often, he said, the groups seek out people who aren't inclined to be supportive and try to force them to change their mind. Instead, he said, TechNet should concentrate on "finding people who believe in the issues and then supporting them, not the other way around."

    White said his Republican background doesn't mean a political shift for TechNet, which has tried to be bipartisan. "We've got to be bipartisan," he said. "We just can't be effective otherwise." Plus, he said, technology issues don't break down along partisan lines.

    Until two years ago, the technology industry was slow to embrace the political world, preferring instead to be left alone. However, the Microsoft antitrust trial and issues such as H1-B visas have forced the sector to take a more active role.

    In recent months, TechNet has lobbied successfully to improve trade relations with China and worked to pass a school-bond initiative on the California state ballot.

    In recent months, TechNet has lobbied successfully to improve trade relations with China and worked to pass a school bond initiative on the California state ballot.

    The group has also pushed for securities-litigation reform and lifting the cap on H-1B visas.

    TechNet's executive committee will meet next week to outline the group's future priorities.