Tech Lobbying, Entrepreneurship, and the Innovation Economy

by on November 22, 2010 · 4 comments

As he noted, Adam Thierer’s lead article in the most recent Cato Policy Report is called “The Sad State of Cyber-Politics.” It goes through so many ways tech and telecom companies are playing the Washington game to win or keep competitive advantage.

It’s a nice set-up to a Washington Post opinion piece from this weekend in which TownFlier CEO Morris Panner talks about the growing riches accruing to Washington influencers:

We are creating so much regulation – over tax policy, health care, financial activity – that smart people have figured out that they can get rich faster and more easily by manipulating rules on behalf of existing corporations than by creating net new activity and wealth. Gamesmanship pays better than entrepreneurship.

Thierer sees some hope for the tech sector, for a few reasons:

Smaller tech companies have thus far largely resisted the urge [to engage with Washington]. Hopefully that’s for principled reasons, not just due to a shortage of lobbying resources. Second, the esoteric nature of many Internet and digital technology policy discussions frustrates many lawmakers and often forces them to lose interest in these topics. Third, the breakneck pace of technological change makes it difficult for regulators to bottle up innovation and entrepreneurialism.

Panner’s broader piece calls for “a national campaign to create transparency in our legislation and a national moratorium on the creation of commissions, regulators and czars. It is time for Congress to do the hard job of saying what lawmakers mean in clear and easy-to-understand language.” He continues, “We should reject bills that are thousands of pages or that delegate vast authority to unelected regulators.”

That would be a start.

  • Brett Glass

    Actually, smaller tech companies have not engaged with Washington because they’re ignored. Don’t have big bucks to give to politicians? Don’t have an army of lobbyists? Fuhugeddaboudit. The bureaucrats will listen politely and then do what Google says.

    Lobbyists are, basically, slimeballs. We need them out of Washington.

  • NFitzpatrick2009

    Yet again the ignorance of the TLF crowd amazes me. Is the air thin on yon lofty perch?

    “smaller tech companies have not engaged with Washington”

    Jim, both you and Brother Adam are as usual clueless and quite caught up in your cleverness. So much so that you cannot even understand how wrong you are. Smaller tech companies are very much caught up in Washington lobbying. They simply don’t operate in the realm which you with your permanently attached horse blinders perceive.

    The smaller tech companies literally lobby in several different avenues: Business Associations, such as NFIB or the US Chamber. Industry Associations, such as TechAmerica (formerly EIA AND ITAA thus at their max numbers over 2,000 tech companies).

    Or much more frequently, these smaller tech companies “lobby” when they ADVOCATE for changes within the FAR/DFAR rules, GSA Schedule, or any other Federal or State level contracting governing rules.

    This lobbying (Yes, advocating on a contracting rule is “lobbying”.) may not grab attention on TechCrunch, but the direct impact on a small company’s positive income of even a minor rule change is much more significant to them.

    You simply don’t seem to be able to understand that their perception drives what policies they choose to participate in shaping and by what avenue they choose to do so.

    That just makes them much more interested in the actions of the bureaucrats in the bowels of Agencies and not overpaid lawyers in the canyons of downtown DC.

  • NFitzpatrick2009

    Your brief and ignorant statement about “lobbyists” demonstrates your lack of understanding of what “advocating” is.

    I won’t deign to attempt to educate you, but a rose by any other name is still a rose. The legal definition of “lobbyist” and “educational 501(c)3″ may be different but if you attempt to go out to a square state hayfield and explain the difference to a guy on the tractor, don’t blame me if you get laughed at.

    People who live in glass houses…. Oops. That was shallow. But funny!

  • Kirk I

    Mr. Fitzpatrick,

    You have a finely tuned sensitivity alarm. Otherwise known in some circles as ARS.

    You obviously have some concept of lobbying, but don’t comprehend that the difference between K street, direct lobbying and group lobbying such as the NAR or NFIB in methodology and impact creates a separate type and class of advocacy – subject to much different rules.

    In simple terms; A lunch meeting with the FCC or FTC Chairman differs greatly in type and class of lobbying than group policy advocacy. Your attempt to combine the two and incinerate the article (and authors) simply illustrates your lack of pragmatism or ability to perceive context.
    You seem to have an understanding of varying lobbying efforts. But no concept of reality regarding what actually happens “on and around ‘the hill.’

    Try reading an inside politics book such as (since we’re on the tech subject) “You Say You Want a Revolution” by Reed Hundt, FCC Chairman under Clinton Gore 93-97, during the tech formative (and 97 Telcom Act) years. Cautionary Note: it will require you apply reason, logic and do a great deal of reading between the lines to really understand it.

    Second thought, forget it.

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