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Tech pumps cash into D.C., but for what?

  • date icon September 26, 2014
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For years, tech companies ignored Washington. But Washington wasn’t about to ignore them.

A few years ago, Congress debated some big bills on Internet policy, and Silicon Valley wasn’t at the table. So tech companies opened D.C. headquarters and started lobbying.

Web giants like Google, Amazon and Facebook joined forces to create a new trade group, The Internet Association, two years ago. Michael Beckerman is the association’s president and CEO.

He showed me around their sleek, new Washington office and explained why he’s here.

“That’s my job,“ he says. "To help build relationships and bridge the gap between our industry and Congress.”

That gap makes it hard for tech to gain traction in Washington. Part of the problem? It takes time to build relationships on Capitol Hill, and tech is new to the K Street lobby game. Also, the tech industry wants quick movement on huge issues, like immigration and patent reform.

Back in Silicon Valley, they can’t understand what’s taking so long.

“In the Internet world and Silicon Valley, people see a problem and they find a way to solve it, but that’s not always how Washington works,” Beckerman says.

So Beckerman and his chief lobbyist, Gina Woodworth, make regular trips to Capitol Hill. The day I meet up with them, they’re off to Congressman Paul Ryan’s office to talk about trade legislation.

Of course, we take an Uber SUV to Capitol Hill.

“The last time they drafted a trade bill was in 2002,” says Gina Woodworth. “In 2002, a lot of our companies weren’t even created and we weren’t really an active stakeholder at that time. But now we are.”

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