With all the news
surrounding the mergers, acquisitions, economic growth and newfound
money in Silicon Valley, it's no wonder presidential hopefuls are
keeping a close eye on the issues and wallets of the high-tech
Having raised more than $1.5 million in support of the upcoming
election ($785,000 for the Republicans, $770,000 for the Democrats),
the three leading presidential candidates -- Texas Gov. George W.
Bush, former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley, and Vice President Al
Gore - are scouring the Valley (as well as other high-tech centers)
for money and votes.
The three leading presidential
candidates -- Bush, Bradley and Gore -- are scouring the
Valley for money and votes.
Arizona Sen. John McCain, who trounced Bush in the recent New
Hampshire primary and is on par with him in the South Carolina
primary, according to the polls, has raised almost no money in
Bush, Bradley and Gore offer similar proposals, strategies and
ideas on issues of interest to high-tech companies. In fact, their
agendas -- which by and large match the desires of the tech
community -- closely resemble each other on issues of importance to
the dot-com industry (Internet taxation, H1-B visa availability and
encryption export restrictions) as well as the entire high-tech
industry (the promotion of free global trade, a reduction in
shareholder lawsuits, an increase in tax credits for research, a
reduction in taxes on stock and options gains, and overriding
federal accounting standards that tech companies say penalize them).
In policy areas, the candidates' differences typically boil down
to tactics. On H-1B visas, for example, all three agree that U.S.
companies should get more access to foreign high-tech guest workers.
However, Bush would increase the current limit of 115,000, while
Gore would eliminate the category altogether and instead create a
program to accelerate the naturalization of foreign high-tech
talents, making it possible for them to work anywhere without the
hassle of red tape and letting them remain in the United States,
where they can benefit U.S. companies indefinitely.
Politics Beyond Policies
In the end,
though, the candidates' views may not matter much to high-tech
voters. It became clear in talking to supporters that there are few
lines drawn among the candidates -- and that personal comfort and
social issues will likely sway high-tech voters more than high-tech
The personal factor
"They have very similar views on
issues related to Silicon Valley," says Bradley supporter Ted
Schlein, a general partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.
"I think this election is much more about personalities, styles,
leadership capabilities." Schlein has known Bradley for about 20
years, since Schlein was 13 years old and his father was finance
chairman for Bradley's first Senate run. Bradley has become a family
friend, someone Schlein played charades with each year.
Although E. Floyd Kvamme, a senior partner at Kleiner Perkins and
co-founder of TechNet, has known Republican politicians before, such
as Ed Zschau (the fellow high-tech CEO who ran for a Senate seat in
California in 1986), this is the first presidential election he's
been "this involved in." The reason he decided to throw his heft
into the battle? "I really got to know the governor pretty well,"
says Kvamme, who is a Bush supporter.
For Gore supporter Chris Larsen, CEO of E-Loan (EELN),
"He is the guy who went a long way in inspiring me on the Internet
Picking the U.S. CEO
"When the economics are great, you
can ask, What kind of chief executive do you want? Who's the best
CEO for the world?" says Schlein, echoing a common sentiment in the
Valley: The president is the chief executive of the United States,
and perhaps the world. "You've got to find a leader who doesn't view
themselves as a politician per se but someone who's able to put
together a good team. Sure, you've got to understand how government
works. But the fact is that Bill has had a life before the Senate,
and he's had a life after the Senate.
"Bill is intelligence with integrity, policy without
partisanship. He's one of the smartest people we've had run for
president. He's as squeaky clean as he appears to be," Schlein
"I think people are sick of partisan politics. Bill has
demonstrated the ability to side with his party and to go against
his party. I believe that based upon his access to all the data that
he'll make the best decisions for the rest of the country.
Personally, I believe he will execute."
Gore supporter John Witchel, founder and CEO of consumer
e-services startup Red Gorilla, echoes this leadership theme: "Gore
understands technology. He's interested by it. He understands that
it's a tool that works for some things and not for others."