For the One Ls

Did you know that something called “bribery” is illegal in America? It’s the strangest thing. I was scanning about for a word-of-the-day and came upon this arcane legal term: bri-ber-y. Here’s how it’s defined in 18 U.S. Code § 201 – Bribery of public officials and witnesses:

For the purpose of this section—
(1) the term “public official” means Member of Congress, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner, either before or after such official has qualified, or an officer or employee or person acting for or on behalf of the United States, or any department, agency or branch of Government thereof, including the District of Columbia, in any official function, under or by authority of any such department, agency, or branch of Government, or a juror;
(2) the term “person who has been selected to be a public official” means any person who has been nominated or appointed to be a public official, or has been officially informed that such person will be so nominated or appointed; and
(3) the term “official act” means any decision or action on any question, matter, cause, suit, proceeding or controversy, which may at any time be pending, or which may by law be brought before any public official, in such official’s official capacity, or in such official’s place of trust or profit.

(b) Whoever—
(1) directly or indirectly, corruptly gives, offers or promises anything of value to any public official or person who has been selected to be a public official, or offers or promises any public official or any person who has been selected to be a public official to give anything of value to any other person or entity, with intent—
(A) to influence any official act; or

(2) being a public official or person selected to be a public official, directly or indirectly, corruptly demands, seeks, receives, accepts, or agrees to receive or accept anything of value personally or for any other person or entity, in return for:
(A) being influenced in the performance of any official act;

Without benefit of counsel, I will offer a layman’s summation: you may not offer gold, frankincense, myrrh, or bitcoins to a member of congress with the intent of influencing their official conduct. Well that’s about as crazy as having homogenous nations with borders, but the concept is simple enough I suppose.

And that’s why I’m very concerned that some naive tech nerds may have not realized they were
actually speaking in public.

Silicon Valley’s checks haven’t been buying them many bills.

Lawmakers made multiple trips to the tech industry capital this summer to stage meet-and-greets with company executives and get them to open their wallets.

But for all the work some members of Congress do to take industry’s money and run, many of the sector’s highest priorities have been left on the table. That’s leading to growing frustration around the San Francisco Bay Area and causing some industry advocates to eye a more aggressive posture for dealing with Washington.

“I think there’s definitely frustration,” said Julie Samuels, executive director of the San Francisco-based startup advocacy group Engine. “I’m lying if I said otherwise.”

“However, there’s also an understanding that nothing is passing in this Congress,” she added. “It’s not so simple as just being mad about the things that haven’t happened. I think people here — like they are all over the country — are mad at the overall inability of this Congress to get anything done.”

The tech industry finds itself in the frustrating position of dealing with deadlock while also wielding a cachet few others can boast.

The industry’s pioneer spirit has captured the imagination of both sides of the aisle, and Silicon Valley executives have both deep pockets and social influence.

“I think that the most disappointing and frustrating part is that the street cred that members get from spending time from tech doesn’t translate into policies that enable those innovations,” said Dean Garfield, president of the Information Technology Industry Council. The lobbying group includes industry giants like Google, Microsoft and Facebook among its dozens of members.

Few lawmakers go posting pictures on Twitter after hanging out on Wall Street as they do with tech icons.

But to date, many industry advocates say they feel more like an ATM than an economy-driving constituency.

Immigration reform — a key demand for a sector struggling to bring in skilled foreign developers and techies — has died a slow and painful death since the 2012 election, when congressional action seemed imminent.

“This is just a particularly difficult time,” said Linda Moore, the CEO of trade group TechNet. “But we’re not going to walk away. Not being at the table and not having our voice heard is not the way to go.”

Moore’s organization has coordinated more than 60 visits by government officials to tech companies this cycle, and she is responding to the absence of action by focusing on next year.

For instance, Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) — who is poised to take over the House Judiciary subcommittee on Intellectual Property — came to San Francisco in August to talk with TechNet, Engine, Yelp and ride service Lyft about patents and other issues.

While in the area, he attended a fundraiser at the home of San Jose, Calif., city councilmember Pete Constant, where $2,500 could get a group of six a photo of the congressman.

The industry and its friends may also take a harsher tone with the lawmakers who ignore tech firms even when they’re not asking for money.

“There are tons of people who spend time in Silicon Valley, who fundraise in Silicon Valley and then return to Washington and take votes that are completely contrary to the interests of the innovation ecosystem,” said Garfield. [sounds almost like congressmen who beg for the votes of constituents whom they promptly ignore–except it’s legal]

His organization is going to do more to “hold those policymakers accountable,” he said, by “saying ‘no’ more often and… being stronger supporters for those who get it and are working hard to move policies that are in our national best interest.”

Signs of a more aggressive approach are coming from other places, too.

“I do think the frustration is more palpable,” she said. “Though that hasn’t stopped people from coming out and asking for money.”

I understand that The Hill is so little-read it’s practically classified material, but that was still fairly ballsy for both parties to just openly state. Silicon Valley executives are offering bribes to congressmen who are hungrily soliciting them. Perhaps in the prospective excitement of migrating half a billion Indians they simply forgot? How embarrassing if so.

Though it’s quite amusing to read of techie vexation at the congressional hogs clamoring for their slop while offering only excrement as the quid pro quo. These unseasoned plutocratic geeks respond as though they are being stymied by recalcitrant network appliances. This legacy political garbage isn’t even routing our packets! Ha. No it’s not, Poindexter. Welcome to politics.

And though my smiles are too choice a thing for light and careless lavishing, I must admit to sparing one at the image of a venal politician and population replacement CEO locked in a mortal embrace over their table of caviar and quail eggs.

2 thoughts on “For the One Ls

  1. Your subject matter’s always depressing, but your eye for picking it out and your delivery are things to aspire to. Do not grow weary of doing good, my friend.

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