This week, Facebook Chief Privacy Officer Chris Kelly announced that he is taking the first steps in a bid to be elected as attorney general of California. Kelly, a former Clinton White House staffer, has not yet made plans to leave his post at Facebook while his bid is still in the exploratory stages.
There are plenty of Silicon Valley successes who have left politics for the tech industry--Kelly's Facebook colleagues Sheryl Sandberg, Ted Ullyot, and Elliot Schrage among them--but not as many who make the jump in reverse. Here's our guide to the notable few who have, along with some who have dabbled in D.C.
Most people know that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was a billionaire mogul long before running for office, but many of them overlook the fact that the cash originally came from tech innovation, namely founding the financial services software company that would revolutionize the spread and exchange of information on Wall Street and beyond.
Washington U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Democrat, topped CNET News' Technology Voters Guide in 2008 as the senator most friendly to tech policies. That should not come as a surprise: Cantwell was vice president of marketing at Seattle-based streaming-media company RealNetworks from 1995 through her original bid for the Senate in 2000.
In the Senate, Cantwell holds a few posts where tech cred helps quite a bit: she sits on the Finance Committee; Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee; the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee; and the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman's political ambitions, more specifically as a Republican candidate for governor of California, have been evident for some time now. They became especially apparent after she took a key role in John McCain's presidential campaign in 2008 and spoke at the Republican National Convention (pictured). But it wasn't until this February that Whitman officially launched an exploratory committee. She hopes to succeed current Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who cannot run again due to term limits.
She may be running against Gavin Newsom, the Democratic mayor of San Francisco, who announced his gubernatorial bid this spring on Twitter.
Another prominent female Republican with Silicon Valley roots and Washington ambitions is Carly Fiorina, the former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard. She was an economic adviser to John McCain's presidential campaign, spoke at the 2008 Republican National Convention, and now is said to be "seriously considering" a run for Senate.
Fiorina, who is a member of the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum and whose name was tossed around as a speculative vice presidential nominee for McCain, would be running against Democratic incumbent Barbara Boxer in 2010.
These days, the buzzed-about young newcomer to the D.C. scene is actor Kal Penn, best known for playing the inventor of the smokeless marijuana bong in "Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay." But CNET News does not deem smokeless bongs as sufficiently high-tech to include Penn, who has joined the White House Office of Public Liaison, on this list.
However, there's also Chris Hughes, who was one of Mark Zuckerberg's original Facebook co-founders (and Harvard roommates) and who's a rising star in the world of political strategy. While he remains a consultant to the massive social network, he stopped working there full time early in 2007 to head up digital-media initiatives for Barack Obama's then-fledgling presidential campaign.
Obama's use of online networking tools from Facebook to Twitter, as we all know, was phenomenally successful, due largely in part to Hughes' guidance. The 25-year-old graced the cover of Fast Company magazine in April.
Hughes' current title is entrepreneur-in-residence at General Catalyst Partners, a Cambridge, Mass.-based venture firm. But we wouldn't be surprised if he resurfaced in the Beltway in the not-so-distant future.
Having a solid standing among the digerati doesn't mean you'll make a great politician. It also doesn't mean you're necessarily all that tech-savvy. Take the example of George Allen, who sat on the board of directors for a handful of high-tech start-ups in his home state of Virginia and was deemed one of the senators most friendly to the tech industry when it came to his political positions.
That, however, didn't prepare Allen for the potential dangers of the Web 2.0 revolution. While running for re-election in 2006 in a tight race against Jim Webb, Allen was videotaped using an obscure racial slur at a campaign rally, and it hit the Internet almost instantly. Allen lost his bid for re-election: The politician who was named CNET News' most tech-friendly senator in our 2006 Technology Voters' Guide, in effect, saw his political career ruined by a YouTube video.