ICYMI- Tom Manatos Getting Ready to Make Tech History
Tom Manatos getting ready to make tech history
Posted 6/28/13 12:01 AM EDT
Tom Manatos has the sort of Beltway résumé that probably could land him a gig as a lobbyist on just about any issue.
He chose tech.
“I’ve worked on health care, on immigration, on the environment,” said the 33-year-old earlier this month on his third day as director of government affairs for the nascent Internet Association. “But when I’m done with this career, what is going to make me say, ‘OK, I had a mark on history. I helped change something. I had a big role in that.’ That’s the tech industry.”
He might make his mark sooner than he thinks given several topics high on IA’s agenda are already on the front burner in Congress. His immediate goal is to protect the H-1B visa increases in the Senate immigration package and to take advantage of new patent reform momentum spurred by President Barack Obama’s package of executive orders and legislative recommendations to curb abusive litigation.
“While Congress isn’t getting a whole lot done, on our issues there’s a lot happening,” said Manatos, who reports to Gina Woodworth, IA vice president of public policy and government affairs. “I’m not naive to the fact that a lot of things take many Congresses to accomplish, but on our issues things are happening.”
Manatos knows from “many Congresses.” At 16, the Bethesda, Md., native served as a page for Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who represents his home state. He was on Tipper Gore’s advance team during the 2000 election — “I was the second-youngest paid staffer” — and interned for then-Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.) in 2001. That summer, Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont switched parties, handing control of the chamber to Democrats and the helm of the Banking Committee to Sarbanes. Manatos, at 21, became the committee’s acting deputy press secretary for four months.
Next came nine years as an aide for California Democrat Nancy Pelosi and 18 months at the Democratic National Committee under Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida.
“Tom understands how the process in Washington works,” IA CEO Michael Beckerman said. “A lot of people are policy experts, but they don’t understand how a bill becomes a law and sometimes, more importantly, how a bill doesn’t become a law.”
While Beckerman insisted it wasn’t a factor in the hire, it doesn’t hurt Manatos that his wife, Dana, and her brother are prominent Republicans who worked in the Bush White House. Manatos half-joked he was probably the “only person who has worked for Nancy Pelosi and Debbie Wasserman Schultz at the Bush Library opening.”
Manatos isn’t just a lobbyist for tech interests — he’s also a serendipitous startup guy himself. The Tom Manatos Job List grew out of his informal daily emails on politics-related openings for Democrats to become a popular nonpartisan subscription service.
Those efforts to find the middle ground in a highly polarized Washington bode well for Manatos as a lobbyist, Beckerman said. And Manatos noted that tech policy may be one of the last areas that is less tainted by intense partisanship anyway.
“It doesn’t matter how conservative or how progressive and liberal a district you come from,” he said. “You’re going to find many, many businesses and users who care about these issues and don’t want overregulation of the Internet or the ability to be innovative to be harmed because of legislation coming from here.”