Silicon Valley Suddenly Cares About Speaker Fight

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta
AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

(Ferenstein Wire) – The tech industry, now one of the largest private sector lobbying forces in Washington DC, hasn’t had much to say as Republicans scramble to find a new Speaker for the House of Representatives. But now, Congress’s geekiest member, Representative Darrell Issa, is “considering” putting his hat in the ring and has turned heads in the well-heeled tech halls of D.C.

“This Congress, and the next and beyond, will have to deal with many issues underpinned by technology, and having someone in the Speaker’s chair with that perspective will continue to be important,” said Michael McGeary, former political director of the tech policy lobby, Engine Advocacy. “Issa, as an entrepreneur himself and certainly a leader for many years on tech issues.”

The San Diego representative is an engineer by training and made his (substantial wealth) patenting car alarm technology. As a Congressman, he recently created both the “Internet of Things” Caucus and the Sharing Economy Caucus to advance legislation for tech startups in the emerging industry. Most importantly to Silicon Valley, he’s been the Republican architect for high-skilled immigration reform–the tech industry’s number one issue.

Issa was also one of the first members to come out against the infamous Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which eventually erupted in a massive blackout protest by Internet sites across the web. He even funded his own nonprofit, the Open Government Foundation, which builds technology for publically crowdsourcing state and federal legislation.

“There’s a lot of excitement for Issa potentially running for it, because it’d be a huge win for the tech community,” said one DC lobbyist of a large tech company on the condition of anonymity. Even this particular source, who used to work with the Congressman, couldn’t speak on the record because tech companies have to play in the shadows in the race for a new Speaker.

“Regardless of who tech might favor, it’s a matter of burning bridges of the other members who might be in the running,” he explains.

For those not following the play-by-play of Republican politics, no one expected that long-time leader of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, would abruptly quit his post last month. So, as is expected in any group of ambitious folks without a leader, there’s a flash scramble of people to fill the power vacuum.

Issa made headlines this morning for announcing his intent to “consider running for one of the most powerful positions in American government. But, to be sure, “considering” being a candidate is political speak for “actually running, but seeing if there’s any public support that may be lurking in the background.”

For the tech industry, this obscure political fight just got a lot more interesting. And, on social media, I suspect that we may witness more political interest coming from otherwise apolitical tech circles. It’s worth watching, for sure.

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