I’m always amused when I read stories quoting high-tech company leaders bemoaning the fact that they supposedly don’t get enough respect from Washington legislators or regulators. The latest example comes from a story in today’s Politico (“D.C. Crowd’s Path to Silicon Valley” by Tony Romm) which begins by noting that, “A trek to Silicon Valley has become a must-do for D.C. lawmakers seeking to stress their business and tech bona fides while developing relationships that could lead to big campaign donations down the road.” And yet it ends with this ironic bit:
Silicon Valley types typically don’t mind hosting lawmakers, as the trips give businesses out West the chance to put issues and needs on the minds of their regulators. But tech bellwethers sometimes don’t take kindly to lawmakers who treat the valley as an endless ATM. “All too often, people see Silicon Valley as the wallet and set aside the words or wisdom that [it] can provide,” said Carl Guardino, president and CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.
Well, boo-hoo. If Mr. Guardino and his fellow Silicon Valley travelers don’t like being treated like an ATM, then they should stop behaving like one! No one makes them give a dime to any politician. And once you start playing this game, you shouldn’t be surprised by how quickly you’ll become entrenched in the cesspool that is Beltway politics and become less and less focused on actually innovating and serving consumers.
I wish people like this would go back and read “Why Silicon Valley Should Not Normalize Relations with Washington, D.C.” by Cypress Semiconductor President and CEO T.J. Rodgers. Everything he said 10 years ago has come true. “Government can do only two things here: take our money, limiting our economic resources; or pass laws, limiting our other freedoms,” he warned in 2000. “The political scene in Washington is antithetical to the core values that drive our success in the international marketplace and risks converting entrepreneurs into statist businessmen.” “The collectivist notion that drives policymaking in Washington is the irrevocable enemy of high-technology capitalism and the wealth creation process.”
Instead, the high-tech industry snuggles ever-tighter under the covers with Big Government and then dispenses the Benjamins from their “ATMs” even when the love affair goes sour and they get no respect in the morning. They should get back to serving customers instead of courting politicians.