White House encourages tech firms to push priorities

At a White House meeting Thursday, Bush administration officials urged representatives of the nation's top technology companies to help keep up the pressure for passage of an economic stimulus bill, presidential trade negotiating authority and Export Administration Act renewal, according to participants.

Presidential adviser Karl Rove, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Joshua Bolton and other administration officials met with representatives of 18 major technology companies, as well as Rhett Dawson, president of the Information Technology Industry Council, and Ralph Hellman, ITIC vice president and a former top aide to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.

Sources said that while many of the participants have met previously with top administration officials, this was the first time such a broad cross-section of the industry has gathered for a strategy session at the White House.

Lezlee Westine, the White House liaison to the tech sector and a former top official of the Technology Network, arranged the one-hour, fifteen-minute meeting, which had been requested by the ITIC.

"We both wanted to make sure the other side was still engaged [on these issues] and still on the same page," said Phil Bond, chief of staff to Commerce Secretary Evans and undersecretary for technology. "It was a very positive meeting because we are on the same page," he added. Bond, before joining the administration, served as vice president of Hewlett-Packard and before that as vice president of the ITIC.

"We clearly learned that we have a shared agenda," said one industry participant, adding that the administration deserved an "A" for its work on tech's top priorities.

"We thanked them for [enactment of] the education bill and the Internet tax moratorium--those are bankable accomplishments," said the industry source. "We [also] discussed the three big items that are still pending. [Stimulus, trade and EAA] are three solid things they asked us to work on."

On the stimulus bill, the source said, the tech representatives listed accelerated depreciation, an alternative minimum tax adjustment and a broadband tax credit as their top priorities. The tech community has been pushing accelerated depreciation as the key element of any stimulus package and the source suggested this view was received sympathetically at the White House.

"I know this has the inside track," the source said, adding, "It's the one common element in everyone's plans."

An administration official said accelerated depreciation "absolutely" was a priority for any stimulus package, but pointed out that accelerated rate reduction also remains a top administration priority.

The tech source said the industry representatives also urged the White House to "step in and broker disputes" on Capitol Hill to break stalemates such as the one stalling action on a stimulus. Among other issues discussed, the tech representatives also stressed the government should take a "hands off" approach to the feud between the technology and entertainment industries over digital technology.

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