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12 Washington Leaders the Tech Community Needs

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By Gary Shapiro September 13, 2016

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Gary Shapiro is president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, the U.S. trade association representing more than 2,200 consumer technology companies, and author of The New York Times best-selling books, “Ninja Innovation: The Ten Killer Strategies of the World’s Most Successful Businesses” and “The Comeback: How Innovation Will Restore the American Dream.” His views are his own. Connect with him on Twitter: @GaryShapiro

With the 24/7 media news cycle dominated by the high-wattage presidential contest, it’s easy to lose sight of the other races also on the ballot in November.

The tech community would be wise to focus on—and support accordingly—current and potential members of the House and Senate who have made a huge difference for the industry and U.S. innovation. Among those who deserve your support:

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla: Rubio was the only Republican presidential candidate who raised important technology issues—such as the value of the sharing economy—during the GOP presidential nominating process.

In his speeches and book, Rubio discusses the American Dream and the value of innovation in moving the country forward. He is a strong advocate for free trade and high-skilled immigration reform.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore: A passionate defender of privacy and the internet, Wyden stood with Rep. Darrell Issa at CES 2012 and vowed to stop the harmful SOPA-PIPA legislation, which had cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously. They succeeded.

Wyden also promised a filibuster if the Senate sought to pass legislation that required makers of smartphones and tablets to install a backdoor entrance for government access.

Rep. Ami Bera, D-Calif.-7: Bera supports free trade. He was one of only 28 Democrats to back fast-track trade-promotion authority, drawing the wrath of organized labor, a major Democratic constituency. Bera also supported patent reform in the 113th Congress.

Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla.-26: A freshman member of Congress representing Florida’s 26th Congressional District, Curbelo serves on three important House panels: the Education and the Workforce Committee, the Small Business Committee and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. A former small-business owner, Curbelo founded a public and media relations firm in South Florida just months after finishing college.

Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas-27: A leader on patent reform to combat what amounts to the legalized extortion of American innovators, Farenthold has co-sponsored the Innovation Act in the 113th and 114th Congresses.

The 27th Congressional District of Texas lawmaker also co-sponsored the Trade Protection Not Troll Protection Act, which would make the International Trade Commission a much less attractive venue for patent trolls.

Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz.-7: One of the co-founders of the bipartisan congressional Diversifying Technology Caucus, Gallego is a strong advocate for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education.

Representing the 7th Congressional District of Arizona, Gallego is a co-sponsor of the bipartisan America Can Code Act, which would make computer programming eligible for language-course credits in schools.

Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas-23: This first-term Republican may be the most qualified, effective and tech-savvy freshman congressman in our nation’s history.

Hurd is a former undercover CIA officer, served in the CIA in Afghanistan, created a cybersecurity business and beat an incumbent in 2014 by a scant 2 percent of the vote. In less than two years, Hurd has established himself as the expert on information-technology issues, and chairs the Information Technology Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.-49: According to POLITICO: “Issa’s become known for his tech-savvy background and support for innovation, notably defending internet platforms during the SOPA fight in 2012 and backing Apple in its clash with the federal government over backdoor decryption. Issa has also proposed legislation to update H-1B visa policies, promote open data in government and protect intellectual property.”

He serves on two important panels of the House Judiciary Committee—the Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet Subcommittee and the Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law Subcommittee.

Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y.-5: Meeks, representing New York’s 5th Congressional District, is a problem solver who advocates for free trade. He stood with Bera to proudly back TPA. Meeks also co-chairs the Trans-Pacific Partnership  caucus.

Rep. Krysten Sinema, D-Ariz.-9: Gallego’s fellow Arizona Democrat also serves on the Diversifying Technology Caucus, which advocates for greater inclusivity for women, minorities and veterans in the tech industry. She also supported patent reform legislation in the 113th Congress.

Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif.-15: A co-founder with Issa of the bipartisan Sharing Economy Caucus in the House, Swalwell is also a leader of the Future Forum, a group of the youngest Democratic members of Congress focused on connecting with young people around the country on issues important to them, including jobs and tech.

The tech-savvy Swalwell, representing California’s 15th Congressional District, was dubbed the “Snapchat King” by The Hill.

Rep. Lee Zeldin, R- N.Y.-1: A freshman representing New York’s 1st Congressional District, Zeldin is something of a wunderkind. At age 23, he became the state’s youngest lawyer, before spending four years on active duty with the U.S. Army, during which he served in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Upon returning home, Zeldin ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2008, but two years later was elected to the New York State Senate, where he served for four years before ousting the same congressional incumbent he’d challenged six years earlier. Zeldin serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

To ensure the tech sector continues to deliver on its remarkable potential, we need policymakers who fully understand and embrace the promise of technology. These lawmakers have proven time and again their support for policies that recognize technology’s ability to power our nation’s economic engine, fuel job creation and help support our global leadership.

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