Both President Obama and Mitt Romney say they want to support the next Google or Facebook. But like they do on most issues, the presidential candidates have different views on how to support tech entrepreneurs.
Recently, they both responded to a letter sent by NY Tech Meetup, which has more than 27,000 members, asking the candidates how their policies would benefit startups.
Romney responded by promising to raise visa caps for highly skilled workers, reform the nation’s immigration system “to attract and retain the best and brightest” and offer permanent residency to foreign students who graduate with advanced degrees “in relevant fields.”
Romney also said he would help entrepreneurs by lowering corporate taxes, capping regulations, and confronting nations “like China that steal intellectual property from American innovators.”
Romney pledged to focus government investment on researching technologies "with widespread application." He criticized Obama for what he called "misguided attempts to play the role of venture capitalist, pick winners and losers, and spend tens of millions of dollars on politically-prioritized investments."
Obama said entrepreneurship is now at “record levels” and the number of business startups has risen “nearly 10 percent” since his first year in office.
He said his administration is expanding high-speed Internet networks to help businesses connect with markets around the world, and he notes that he recently signed a law that will allow entrepreneurs to use “crowdfunding” to raise capital.
The law, known as the JOBS Act, makes it legal for companies to raise small amounts of money from millions of investors without having to fill out paperwork with federal regulators.
Obama said he also plans to recruit 10,000 math and science teachers over the next decade. And he said the country’s startup visa program is “allowing foreign entrepreneurs to establish businesses in America and create American jobs.”
Unlike Romney, however, Obama made no mention in the letter of making changes on immigration policy. Many tech startups complain about not being able to fill a gap in engineering talent with qualified immigrants because of caps on visas.
Obama said Romney’s “trickle-down” economic policy “guts investments in our country’s future that grows our economy -- and your startups.”
“But that's the choice in this election between two fundamentally different paths for our country," Obama wrote.
Both candidates and their parties have been aggressively courting the tech community during the campaign, holding fundraisers in Silicon Valley and eclipsing the amount of money raised from technology executive and investors in 2008.
But Obama has maintained a clear edge, raising $5 million from people in the tech industry, compared with Mr. Romney’s $2 million, according to the New York Times.
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Chief operating officer of Facebook. Contributed <a href="http://influenceexplorer.com/individual/sandberg-sheryl/a0b12120af614e0597eb2cf7efa854b5" target="_hplink">$60,800</a> in 2011-2012 so far. Leans to the left (96 percent to Democrats, 4 percent to Republicans). While there's no record of Facebook chairman Mark Zuckerberg making political donations, his No. 2 was once a Washington heavyweight. During the Clinton administration, Sheryl Sandberg worked as chief of staff to then-Treasury Secretary Larry Summers. She has donated to President Barack Obama and a variety of Democratic lawmakers.
Bill Gates (i.e., Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation)
Founder of Microsoft. Contributed <a href="http://influenceexplorer.com/organization/bill-melinda-gates-foundation/93c152ddd1cc4e03b5b463f5d4a4109e" target="_hplink">$34,375</a> in 2011-2012 so far. Leans to the left (98 percent to Democrats, 2 percent to Republicans). One of the wealthiest people on the planet, Bill Gates takes a key political stand that doesn't reflect his pocketbook interests: He supports <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2012/01/25/411283/bill-gates-taxes-justice/" target="_hplink">higher taxes on the rich</a>. He also backs <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/02/bill-gates-steve-ballmer-microsoft-marriage-washington_n_1644532.html" target="_hplink">marriage equality</a>. His donations are made through the nonprofit Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which handles the herculean task of distributing the billionaire's money among worthy causes around the globe.
Executive chairman of Google. Contributed <a href="http://influenceexplorer.com/individual/eric-schmidt/880e3c69437d4a7982781a0b2a188538" target="_hplink">$73,000</a> in 2011-2012 so far. Leans to the left (63 percent to Democrats, 37 percent to Republicans). While the former Google CEO's donations are more evenly distributed between the two parties than those of some other tech titans, Eric Schmidt may be the tech exec who is <a href="http://www.theatlanticwire.com/politics/2011/06/obamas-bromance-googles-eric-schmidt-out-hand/39225/" target="_hplink">coziest with the Obama administration</a>. He served as a campaign adviser during Obama's first presidential run, has been invited to White House galas and was even named to the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Meanwhile, the Federal Trade Commission was hitting Google <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/30/googles-ftc-privacy-settlement-buzz_n_842490.html" target="_hplink">left</a> and <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/11/google-ftc-privacy-settlement_n_1663537.html" target="_hplink">right</a> over privacy violations.
Co-founder of PayPal and early Facebook investor. Contributed <a href="http://influenceexplorer.com/individual/thiel-peter/9a14429dd53a4ad0a16736352da5b0a9" target="_hplink">$2,634,700</a> in 2011-2012 so far. Leans to the right (93 percent to Republicans, 7 percent to Democrats). <a href="http://influenceexplorer.com/individual/thiel-peter/9a14429dd53a4ad0a16736352da5b0a9" target="_hplink">According to Influence Explorer</a>, this Silicon Valley venture capitalist is the fourth most generous political donor in the country, giving $2.6 million to campaigns and third parties over the past year and a half. Among his sometimes eccentric libertarian views (he's a champion of having very smart kids not attend college), Peter Thiel supported Texas Rep. Ron Paul's run for president. Thiel has given the vast majority of his donations to super PAC <a href="http://www.youtube.com/user/EndorseLiberty/feed" target="_hplink">Endorse Liberty</a>, which runs TV and online spots backing Paul.
Laurene Powell Jobs
Wife of the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. Contributed <a href="http://influenceexplorer.com/individual/jobs-laurene-powell/98d9904735ad4f1d838888a7eb793a2b" target="_hplink">$59,800</a> in 2011-2012 so far. Leans to the left (100 percent to Democrats). <a href="http://influenceexplorer.com/search?query=steve+jobs&from_form=1" target="_hplink">According to Influence Explorer</a>, Steve Jobs didn't contribute to political campaigns, but that shouldn't be surprising: The late Apple CEO <a href="http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2011/08/29/the-mystery-of-steve-jobss-public-giving/" target="_hplink">didn't like donating to <em>anybody</em></a>, politician or not. His wife is more generous. In this electoral cycle, Laurene Powell Jobs has given exclusively to Democrats, including President Obama, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona. In 2010, Jobs began serving on <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2010/12/14/president-obama-announces-members-white-house-council-community-solution" target="_hplink">Obama's White House Council for Community Solutions</a>.
CEO of eBay. Contributed <a href="http://influenceexplorer.com/individual/jobs-laurene-powell/98d9904735ad4f1d838888a7eb793a2b" target="_hplink">$48,300</a> in 2011-2012 so far. Leans to the left (100 percent to Democrats). Unlike his predecessor at eBay, onetime Republican California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, John Donahoe has donated all blue this election cycle. He gave $5,000 each to President Barack Obama's and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's reelection campaigns. He <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2010/12/14/president-obama-announces-members-white-house-council-community-solution" target="_hplink">currently serves on the president's White House Council for Community Solutions</a>, like Laurene Jobs. This despite having worked with Mitt Romney at Bain & Company and singing his old colleague's praises. "I think it is outstanding that he has been able to switch to the campaign mode as a politician, because it is certainly not an easy transition coming from the executive role in business," Donahoe <a href="http://dartmouthbusinessjournal.com/2012/03/early-values-shape-ebay-ceo%E2%80%99s-success/" target="_hplink">told the <em>Dartmouth Business Journal</em> in March 2012</a>.
Chairman and CEO of AT&T. Contributed <a href="http://influenceexplorer.com/individual/stephenson-randall/30b4ff047412438faaae88143cb394cc" target="_hplink">$16,332</a> in 2011-2012 so far. Leans to the right (87 percent to Republicans, 13 percent to Democrats). Campaign finance advocates couldn't write a better example of political donations with intent. After AT&T, the largest U.S. mobile carrier, failed to get approval from the Democratic-controlled Federal Communications Commission for a merger with T-Mobile in December, Randall Stephenson up and <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-05-29/at-t-chief-fills-gop-accounts-after-democrats-hit-his.html" target="_hplink">donated the maximum legal amount to the Republican National Committee</a>. Talk about bitter.