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Surprise support for Clinton

In a surprising announcement, President Clinton's reelection campaign says the Democratic ticket has won the endorsement of more than 75 high-technology firms.

President Clinton's reelection campaign has won the endorsement of more than 75 high-technology executives, making a surprise announcement that appeared at odds with rising resentment voiced by many Silicon Valley executives against the White House in recent months.

A campaign spokesperson said word of the endorsement came as a "pleasant surprise" after representatives of the companies convened a meeting to discuss their political positions at Adobe Systems headquarters in Mountain View, California. Among those attending the meeting were Adobe CEO John Warnock, NeXT founder Steven Jobs, Silicon Graphics vice president Yvette del Prado, and John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins Caulfield Byers, a venture capital firm that has funded a number of high-technology companies. (See table below)

"It was based on what they saw of the Republican convention. Dole did not have a vision for high technology," Chung Seto, a Clinton campaign spokeswoman in Washington, said today. "His speech was so backward-looking."

The endorsement was unexpected because many industry executives have voiced dismay over a number of recent White House policy decisions, including an IRS refusal to grant tax breaks to software companies, proposed restrictions on encryption exports, and a presidential veto of legislation aimed at limiting lawsuits over stock performance last December. Some executives who backed candidate Clinton in a high-profile endorsement four years ago have since felt betrayed by such actions, sources say.

The Dole campaign was clearly caught off guard by the endorsement. The Dole-Kemp press office issued what was labeled a "possible reaction to President Clinton's Silicon Valley endorsements" stating that "When it is all said and done, we will have more than our fair share of endorsements from technology leaders in Silicon Valley and across the country...We believe our economic program will stimulate an unprecedented degree of entrepreneurialism and creativity. We believe the Dole presidency will be remembered as the golden days of technology and innovation."

But Silicon Valley leaders disagreed. Ken Coleman, senior vice president of administration at Silicon Graphics said that while "we haven't agreed on every issue, on the balance we have agreed with the policies the president has supported, and more importantly, his policies have been good for the economy, especially good for the businesses in the technology arena."

The endorsements followed statements by Dole that his economic plan would cut taxes by 15 percent. Silicon Valley companies were "skeptical of Dole because he promised a 15 percent tax cut." according to Coleman. A tax cut like that would be absolutely devastating to the economy, particularly to the businesses in the Silicon Valley because it could lead to a substantial rise in interest rates, he added.

Companies may have been encouraged by the steps that Clinton has taken in recent weeks apparently aimed at reestablishing relations with the high-tech sector, including his much-publicized opposition to a California initiative known as Proposition 211, which would broaden the ability to sue companies over investments gone sour.

Others remain unimpressed, saying that Clinton would have to do a lot more than that to repair damage that had already been done. "It's almost like Clinton has given lip service to some of these issues like encryption and the IRS deal now," said an executive of a leading software company that did not appear on the list of support from the Adobe meeting. "These are clearly pro-growth issues that have everything to do with our ability to compete globally."

But the tone emanating from the Adobe meeting was decidedly different. "President Clinton understands the importance of Silicon Valley to the nation's economic vitality," San Jose Mayor Susan Hammer said in a prepared statement. "Nearly 41,000 jobs have been created here in the last two years."

Executives attending the session seemed to agree. President Clinton, who has become something of a political poster boy for high-tech, "helped transform our schools with Information Age technology," according to del Prado. "I believe that the Clinton-Gore team will continue to invest in America's future and prepare our children for the 21st century.

No official plan to create political action committees to raise money for the president have been announced, but each individual will support Clinton in his own way, according to Coleman. "They may choose to give money or to become active in the campaign," he said, "I plan to become active and support the president in any way I can."

Related stories:
Lamm's high-tech strategy
Clinton mends fences on litigation

High Tech Endorsements
NameTitleCompany
Paul AllaireCEOXerox
Carol BartzCEO and PresidentAutodesk
Gerry BeemillerCEO and PresidentInfant Advantage
John Seeley BrownCEOXerox PARC
Brook ByersPartnerKleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers
Doug CarlstonCEOBroaderbund Software
Debi ColemanCEOMerix
Ken ColemanSenior Vice PresidentSilicon Graphics
Bud ColliganCEOMacromedia
Chuck CornisoCEOWyse Technology, Inc.
John DeanCEO and PresidentSilicon Valley Banchares
Yvette del PradoVPSilicon Graphics
John DoerrPartnerKleiner,Perkins,Caufield and Byers
Donna DubinskyCEOPalm Computing
Debra EngelVP3COM
John FreidenrichPrincipalBay Partners
John GageChief Science OfficerSun Microsystems
Greg GalloPartnerGray,Cary,Ware & Freidenrich
Chuck GeschkePresidentAdobe Systems
Bill HambrechtCEO and ChairmanHambrecht and Quist
Irwin JacobsChairman and CEOQualcomm Corp.
Steve JobsCEO and PresidentPixar
Bill JoyFounder and VPSun Microsystems
David Katz, M.D.CEO and PresidentLydik Pharmaceuticals
Mitchell KertzmanCEOSybase