Technology executives, investment bankers, and venture capitalists officially came of political age today with the formation of a bipartisan lobby group called the Technology Network.
The group's goal is to foster stronger relationships between government and the historically independent high-tech industry. After successfully derailing last November's Proposition 211 in California--which would have made it easier for shareholders to sue companies over investments gone awry--the industry is galvanizing to take on other political issues, including those in such general areas as education.
"The Technology Network is clearly an outgrowth of the 'No on 211' campaign," organization president Gary Fazzino said today in an interview with CNET's NEWS.COM. "There is no more hesitancy to get involved in politics. We are a lobbying group."
As previously reported, the organization stated goal is to become a network for technology companies and individuals who want to effect political change that will spur what venture capitalist and TechNet's cochair John Doerr termed the "New Economy"--an entrepreneurial, high-wage business environment. Now that high tech has contributed heavily to the country's economic rebound, he said, it seems only fitting that it wield the same political clout as other established lobbies, such as those in the auto, energy, and pharmaceutical industries.
To that end, the group will endorse candidates and issues, contribute to political campaign through state and federal political action committees, and try to set up "face-to-face" meetings between industry and government leaders.
Like all special interest groups, however, the Technology Network bears an agenda that reflects its own narrow political interests. The organization has a detailed strategy to reduce "frivolous" lawsuits through national securities reform legislation, but its education platform is still vague.
"Our organization is really new," Doerr acknowledged. "We know exactly what sort of public policy we are trying to get in place with respect to securities and legal reform. We are still developing our agenda for education reform."
A host of Silicon Valley chief executives have signed on with the Technology Network, including: Jim Barksdale of Netscape Communications; John Chambers of Cisco Systems; Scott Cook of Intuit; Brian Halla of National Semiconductor; Scott McNealy of Sun Microsystems; Halsey Minor of CNET: The Computer Network (publisher of NEWS.COM); Kim Polese of Marimba; Lew Platt of Hewlett-Packard; and Sandy Robertson of Robertson Stephens.
So far, the Technology Network does not include industry heavyweights outside California, notably Microsoft, Compaq Computer, and IBM. But the group is working to recruit them and others.
But signing members up is just the beginning. Fazzino, who also serves as director of government affairs at Hewlett-Packard, said one of the major challenges facing the group will be educating the high-tech industry itself, not just politicians.
"We have to show them the political realities and difficulties of the political process and convince them to stay involved," he said.
Internet news editor Jeff Pelline contributed to this report.