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GOP & DoD Have Y2K Plans For Silicon Valley & High Technology

Im endlessly fascinated by the spin of politicians (and technologists) Y2K focus on the opportunity presented for the Year 2000. Sometimes I wonder why we even ask what IS important about Y2K preparations, when, obviously, that topic is unimportant to our leaders of all stripes. (Hint: Its the people NOT the campaign contributions).

And then theres Bill Gates meets Bill Cohen below. Introducing Cohen, Gates enthusiastically welcomed him as representing ``our biggest customer in the world.''

(Id much rather hear Bill announce the Pentagon is ... our biggest Y2K compliant customer in the world).

Diane *Sigh*

(2 Articles) ...

GOP Working To Win Over High Tech
Senator Gorton has a plan for Silicon Valley execs

Carla Marinucci, Chronicle Political Writer
Friday, February 19, 1999
)1999 San Francisco Chronicle


The Republican Party is hoping to download the support of high- technology leaders -- and steal some of President Clinton's thunder in Silicon Valley -- by focusing on tech-friendly legislation.

The GOP's renewed battle for the backing of high-tech leaders was evident this week, when U.S. Senator Slade Gorton, the Washington state Republican, flew in to meet with Silicon Valley CEOs and discuss a matter dear to their hearts -- legislation designed to protect their companies against lawsuits related to Y2K computer glitches.

Gorton's proposed Y2K bill specifically focuses on shielding hardware and software manufacturers from lawsuits and liability if computers go haywire at the turn of the century. But he also has a larger message: It is time for the GOP and the political leadership ``to listen to what people in the high-tech industry need . . . and, very, very largely, to stay out of their business.''

With the nasty mess of the Clinton impeachment behind them, and the California presidential primary ahead in March 2000, Gorton's visit spotlighted the eagerness of GOP leaders to move on to new issues. And there may be no better place to talk about the future than in Silicon Valley, where a crowd of politically influential and deep- pocketed entrepreneurs is poised to write checks which can help shape next year's political outlook.

Nationwide, computer companies lobbed at least $8.1 million in political action committee, soft money and individual contributions to federal candidates and parties during the 1997-98 elections -- twice the amount in the previousmidterm elections, according to a report this month from the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington watchdog group. But Republicans say that it is the message, not the money, that concerns them.

``The reason why Republicans are reaching out to the high-tech community is that our theme of smaller government and less regulation is a natural . . . for the high-tech industry to embrace,'' said Rob Nichols, a spokesman for Gorton.

``Part of the reason why so many (high-tech leaders) have been with Democrats is that they did a better job of reaching out,'' Nichols said. ``No question, we lagged behind. We didn't go the extra mile and connect the dots. . . . Clinton may give a better speech, but we have better policies.''

More than 50 Republican Party bigwigs, led by presidential hopefuls such as Texas Governor George W. Bush and former Vice President Dan Quayle, have toured Silicon Valley in the past 18 months, said Lezlee Westine, vice president and general counsel to the Technology Network, a bipartisan Silicon Valley advocacy group.

But they have found the political topography of the Silicon Valley a challenge to navigate.

``The Valley is fundamentally centrist . . . as close to the 50-yard line of the political spectrum as you can imagine,'' said Wade Randlett, the Democratic liaison to TechNet. ``Our folks are fiscally conservative, pro-free market, pro-free trade, socially liberal on abortion, environment and education. A centrist message wins.

``If the Republicans have that message, they will do well,'' Randlett said. ``But Republicans have a little proving left to do.''

Past Republican attempts to win more followers in the high-tech world have been largely steamrollered by the White House. The president has scored big donation checks and has grabbed front page photos with media-saavy events such as NetDay, and Gore has met regularly for the past year with Silicon Valley leaders such as venture capitalist John Doerr.

Clinton returns to the Bay Area and Los Angeles this week. Gore plans a California visit in early March and a major Silicon Valley fund-raiser April 6.

While bipartisan efforts to help high-tech are needed, the Clinton administration has been given entirely too much credit for its work in that arena, Gorton said.

``I do not think a Republican Department of Justice would have brought suits against Microsoft . . . or Intel,'' said Gorton, whose state is home to Microsoft. Government should concentrate on ``listening to what people in the high-tech industry need . . . and solving their problems rather than enriching lawyers.''

Another proposed House bill on Y2K liability, co-sponsored by Southern California Republicans David Dreier and Chris Cox, would zero in on the trial lawyers who have put their bucks behind Democratic causes.

The Y2K problem could cause computers to interpret 2000 as the year 1900, which may lead to widespread technological breakdowns. Many computers only recognize the last two digits of year, because of a programming shortcut.

Both Cox and Dreier are expected to play frontline roles in GOP efforts to woo more high-tech support. But Randlett said Silicon Valley leaders will have to be convinced of the seriousness of those efforts.

``The right thing, if Republicans want to do themselves good, is to get high-profile, serious Democratic support for the substance of (the Y2K liability) bill -- and to have a conversation with the White House, which is on the record saying they will support (one),'' Randlett said.

Technology leaders also will look to see which party is getting things done on other key issues considered critical to the industry, Randlett said.

``The No. 1 issue across the spectrum, from biotech to pure Internet, is to increase incentive and direct investment in research and development by the federal government,'' he said. ``That's serious work, heavy lifting, and if the Republicans do that, they will be rewarded by Silicon Valley.''

Such high-tech-related legislation -- and the intense attention being given the industry by major political parties -- is tied directly to the bottom line, said Paul Hendrie, communications director for the Center for Responsive Politics.

``The high-tech industry is maturing, and it's grown beyond the point where people are inventing things in their garages,'' he said.

High tech's entrepreneurs are ``looking for help from the political process,'' so they will be sinking money, and lots of it, into campaign contributions and lobbying.

Political parties and Congress will respond, but neither will ``do too much out of the goodness of their hearts,'' said Hendrie. ``Money is a big part of it -- and the industry's clout.''

And, see also ...

Cohen says high-tech industries should thank military for success

ROBERT BURNS, AP Military Writer
Friday, February 19, 1999

(02-19) 01:34 EST REDMOND, Wash. (AP) -- Leaders in the high-flying information technology business have lost sight of the role America's military has played in their success, Defense Secretary William Cohen says.

``Some in the 'digital world' dismiss the importance of the national security world,'' Cohen told about 200 Microsoft employees in a speech on the software giant's suburban Seattle campus Thursday. Company Chairman Bill Gates, seated behind Cohen, cracked a paper-thin smile.

``Some soldiers in the high-tech revolution do not fully understand or appreciate the soldiers in camouflage,'' Cohen said, ``that tanks and guns are somehow rusty relics of the past, nearly obsolete in the new information-based world that is going to carry us into the future.''

Cohen said Microsoft -- whose biggest customer is the Defense Department -- has a healthy appreciation of the importance of American military power. But he complained about one unidentified industry official whose dismissive remark he had read in The New York Times.

He quoted the official as saying, ``Money is extracted from Silicon Valley and then wasted by Washington.'' Cohen said this attitude revealed a troubling lack of understanding of how the U.S. military's presence and influence abroad help the American economy.

``Indeed, peace and stability are the very cornerstones of prosperity,'' Cohen said. ``When our diplomats and military forces work together to help create stability and security in a nation or a region, that same stability and security attracts investment. Investment, in turn, generates prosperity.''

Introducing Cohen, Gates enthusiastically welcomed him as representing ``our biggest customer in the world.'' The Pentagon, whose network of more than 2.1 million computers is central to its military missions, buys $300 million a year in Microsoft products.

Gates said Microsoft is intent on working with the Defense Department to improve the security of its information from the threat of cyberterrorism. ``It's fair to say this is an unsolved problem,'' he said.

In his opening remarks Cohen noted how unusual it is for a defense secretary to visit a company like Microsoft. He said the usual itinerary for a visit to the Seattle area would center on a tour of Boeing Co., which ranks as the nation's No. 2 defense contractor. In fact Cohen did visit Boeing, then flew to Microsoft's campus by Army helicopter, an entrance that he said jokingly may have surprised and unsettled some workers.

``They probably thought this is 'Red Dawn,'' referring to the 1980s movie about a foreign army's invasion of the United States, ``or an invasion of the aliens,'' Cohen said to laughter.

This was the second in a series of appearances by Cohen before Americans outside the traditional circle of audiences for a Pentagon chief. Last month, he spoke to the Illinois General Assembly in Springfield, and he is considering speeches this year to the Kansas City Board of Trade, at New Orleans' City Hall and to the Arkansas Legislature.

Cohen told his Microsoft audience that the nation needs to show its support for those in uniform and invest more in its high-tech future.

``We must invest in the next generation of weapons and technology if we are to maintain our ability to shape and respond to world events in the 21st century,'' he said.

[How about fixing this generations computers Cohen so we can make a peaceful transition into the 21st century, huh, Cohen?]

-- Diane J. Squire (, February 20, 1999


I was in the conference room with Slade Gorton and the Chron reporter at HP hq earlier this week. I asked the senator about some Y2K details, he ducked my question. Hardly "downloading support" or whatever.

-- Declan McCullagh (, February 20, 1999.

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