Kerry Grasps Potential of Tech, Backer Says

Opinion: John Kerry's finance chairman in California says the candidate-who supports expensing stock options and creating tax policies to keep U.S. jobs-would push more long-term economic gains in tech.

Why should the tech community support Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry?

The answer, in short, is because his presidency would be good for business, possibly as good for the tech business as the Clinton administration, according to Mark Gorenberg, Kerrys California finance chairman.

"Im just a huge believer in John Kerry. I believe he is the best candidate for Democrats and forward-thinking Republicans, for fiscally responsible Republicans," says Gorenberg, a partner at Hummer Winblad, a venture capital firm based in San Francisco. Gorenberg, who was a registered Republican through the 1980s, has been working steadily for Kerry since early 2000.

Throughout the Democratic primaries, some in Silicon Valley supported Sen. Joseph Liebermans candidacy, and others became Howard Dean donors, but Gorenberg remained a steadfast Kerry supporter.

Hes helped raise more than $28 million for the Democratic presidential nominee and says almost half of that, about $13 million, comes from San Francisco and Silicon Valley. So, Gorenberg is hands-down the best person in the tech community to make the case for supporting Kerry.

Traditionally, the Republican Party has been the party of business, favoring reduced government involvement in the marketplace, lower taxes and less regulation than that favored by Democrats—all policies youd expect Silicon Valley entrepreneurs to endorse.

Some of techs Democratic support is the result of its California base—the state will almost certainly be counted for Kerry in November—and the party has waged a steady courtship of the industrys leaders. Kerry is following that course, Gorenberg says. "I believe John Kerry will be a science and technology president. His background supports that."

Kerrys stands on two of techs hot-button issues, outsourcing and expensing stock options, have been at odds with those of TechNet, the most well-established of the Silicon Valley lobbying efforts. Kerry has gone back and forth on outsourcing, moderating his earlier rhetoric about economic traitors to settle on the creation of tax policies to keep jobs in the United States. And he supports calls to expense stock options, although here, too, he has changed his position.

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here for more on the outsourcing debate and the fault line it strikes in the tech industry.

Despite those stances, the fiscally responsible choice is a vote for Kerry, Gorenberg claims. Kerry understand the role that tech plays in the U.S. and world economy, he says, and that makes him good for business.

In some respects, the decision to vote for Kerry is a choice between long- and short-term economic gains, Gorenberg says. After all, President Bush has cut taxes; Kerry will increase taxes for the nations wealthiest tax payers, many of whom support his campaign.

"All of us are working hard to get Kerry elected knowing, from a tax perspective, well be making less money next year," Gorenberg says of venture capitalists such as himself and other tech executives making more than $200,000 a year. Its part of Kerrys plan to reduce the deficit, and it will—over the long term—create a healthy, tech-friendly business environment that will bring larger, longer-term rewards.

"I think he has been a leader on technology, the economy and entrepreneurial issues, Gorenberg says.

Among the highlights, Kerry has:

  • Voted in favor of increased spending for broadband deployment, an important aspect of a "tech-positive" approach since it will help grow businesses on the Internet;
  • Proposed the elimination of the capital gain for long-term investments of more than five years in private companies, as a way to encourage investment;
  • Suggested that tax credits for research and development be extended and that support for government agencies involved in "research for industries of the future" be expanded; and
  • Urged the creation of education programs to strengthen math and science programs at all levels.

By cutting taxes and increasing spending, the Bush administration has created a huge debt and an economic environment that cant be sustained, Gorenberg says. "Hes created a spending environment similar to Lyndon Johnsons and a tax-cut program similar to Ronald Reagans," Gorenberg says of Bush, naming two politicians whose policies and politics were completely at odds. "I dont think Bush is liberal or conservative. I think hes just inept."

But like many in tech, Gorenberg is harshest when talking about the administrations attitude toward advancing scientific research. "The Bush administration has destroyed, censored or prohibited scientific research for political motives," he says.

/zimages/2/28571.gifTo read about how stem-cell research could help keep U.S. jobs, click here.

Conducting and encouraging such research isnt just good science, Gorenberg says. Its good business, particularly if youre looking at keeping jobs and innovation in the United States, which more and more is relying on technological and scientific innovation to create jobs, he says.

"We are losing our edge in areas like broadband deployment, stem-cell research and educating a high-tech workforce, Gorenberg says.

Next week: A prominent Silicon Valley venture capitalist makes the case for re-electing President Bush. Technology and Politics columnist Chris Nolan spent years chronicling the excesses of the dot-com era with incisive analysis leavened with a dash of humor. Before that, she covered politics and technology in D.C. You can read her musings on politics and technology every day in her Politics from Left to Right Weblog.

/zimages/2/28571.gifCheck out eWEEK.coms Government Center at for the latest news and analysis of technologys impact on government practices and regulations, as well as coverage of the government IT sector.