Silicon Valley beefs up D.C. presence


Several technology groups are hiring new leaders, flying CEOs across the country and even relocating to have more influence on Capitol Hill.

The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), which represents companies including Intel, AMD and Qualcomm, said last week that it would move its headquarters from San Jose, Calif., to Washington next year. It will also be finding a replacement for longtime President George Scalise.

“As part of the succession process, the board reviewed the industry’s needs and the increasing impact of public policies on competitiveness,” said SIA

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Chairman John Daane, chief executive of Altera Corp. “After much study, we concluded that to have a greater and more effective voice, we must have a greater presence in Washington.”

TechNet, a political network of technology executives from around the country, is nearing the end of its search for a new president, a process that began in April when Lezlee Westine left for the Personal Care Products Council.

TechNet spokesman Jim Hock said the search is ongoing. Rey Ramsey, chief executive of One Economy, is the leading candidate, tech lobbyists said.

Mary Beth Cahill, who directed Sen. John Kerry’s (D-Mass.) presidential campaign and later ran EMILY’s List, is also still in the running for the post, lobbyists said.

Compete America, a coalition that advocates for immigration reform, including H-1B visas for highly skilled workers, is looking to hire a new executive director to strengthen its operation, which has languished in the past year.

The organizations have competition for being the voice of West Coast executives in Washington from the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, a policy trade group that represents more than 300 companies. Carl Guardino, a prominent businessman and regional public figure in Northern California, has led the group for the past 12 years.

The group used to organize an annual trip to Washington for executives, but last year doubled the number of trips to meet with White House officials and lawmakers. In September, 50 executives packed their schedules with 70 meetings, and they’ll be back in May. There is no Washington-based staff.

“We’re able to bring in a cross section of industries when we show up, and the fact that we aren’t lobbyists adds to our influence,” said Kirk Everett, who guides the Leadership Group’s D.C. efforts. “Other groups are there on the ground, but we’re able to be tactical and go in when we’re most needed.”

Tax issues, including research and development tax credits and international tax deferral, are the focus of their efforts right now, Everett said.

Transportation and energy issues, in both Silicon Valley and other tech-centric regions, are also high priorities.

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Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) recently visited with members of the group to discuss cap-and-trade and other climate policies. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also had a roundtable discussion with members about healthcare.

The Technology CEO Council, another advocacy group that includes Dell CEO Michael Dell and IBM CEO Samuel Palmisano, organizes regular trips to Washington on specific issues. It was here last month to speak with senior administration officials.

Executive Director Bruce Mehlmann said the group “remains focused on international tax reform, opening markets to American technology leaders and enhancing investment and innovation.”

Kim Hart can be found on The Hill’s technology blog, Hillicon Valley, located at thehill.com/hillicon-valley