FRAMINGHAM (01/20/2004) - Technology policy ought to be topic number one (or two, or at least three) on the campaign trail, considering its importance to the economy and everyday life. Understandably, candidates are talking about jobs and the mess in Iraq instead. So in order to find out what President Bush and his Democratic challengers think about IT and its impact on the nation, we sent them questionnaires asking about their positions on five policy areas that will be important to CIOs in the next four years and beyond. These include critical infrastructure security, jobs, privacy, corporate governance and information technology -- a category that encompasses their priorities for IT research and development, as well as their approach to IT standards, innovation and e-commerce.
Only Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) responded in full. Meanwhile, CIO writers and editors combed the candidates' records and interviewed sources who have interacted with the contenders in the political arena and in the boardroom.
Find out where each candidate stands. Then decide which of them really gets IT.
George W. Bush
Hometown: Midland, Texas
Current job: President, 2001-present
I.T. experience: In both his White House and campaign policy papers Bush cites the tech sector as a wellspring for economic growth. Actions such as his signing the USA Patriot Act demonstrate Bush's willingness to seek new IT-enabled capabilities to aid government agencies in the war on terrorism. When it comes to new rules that affect business processes and IT systems, he has been less aggressive. Federal regulations issued under Bush for the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) made it easier for CIOs to comply with these laws.
Background: During the 2000 election against Democrat Al Gore, Bush campaigned as "a compassionate Conservative," a devout Christian who is pro business, anti taxes and supports spending on education. The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, reshaped Bush's view of his presidency and led to his declaring war on terrorism. Bush is unopposed for the Republican nomination.
Critical infrastructure: Bush has continued former President Clinton's policy of asking for, rather than requiring, the private sector's cooperation in securing corporate networks.
Bush has signed two acts that together put the federal government's infrastructure on the front burner and sent annual federal IT spending past the US$50 billion mark. The E-Government Act of 2002, sponsored by Bush's potential rival in November, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), promotes better IT security within federal agencies. In response to 9/11, Bush signed a law creating the Department of Homeland Security, a cabinet-level office that merged 22 federal agencies. Among numerous IT projects, the agency is working to create one network to share unclassified data and communications about threats and responses with 50 states and thousands of local emergency responders.
Jobs: Bush has credited tax cuts he initiated with spurring the creation of 124,000 new jobs last October. He has not moved to maintain the ceiling on foreign worker visas, which Congress allowed to dip in 2003. The administration will not try to stop companies from sending IT work offshore, said Chris Israel, deputy assistant secretary of commerce for technology policy, at a September IT services symposium.
Privacy: As part of the war on terrorism, Bush signed the USA Patriot Act, which gives federal investigators sweeping powers to ask for data (such as library borrowing lists and consumers' purchases) that was considered private.
In 2002, the Bush administration eased some restrictions on sharing patient records under HIPAA that were put in place by President Clinton; the revised rules don't require a patient's written consent to share the records, simply a "good faith effort" to get consent.
Corporate governance: In the wake of corporate accounting scandals at companies such as Enron Corp. and WorldCom Inc., Bush signed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which requires corporate officers to vouch for the accuracy of financial data. The law prompted a flurry of activity to reconcile IT systems to this accountability mandate, but subsequent regulations issued by the SEC made compliance easier.
Information technology: The DHS is working with the National Institute of Science and Technology and through its procurement process to encourage the development of products based on open standards, especially for wireless communications. Bush favors making permanent an R&D tax credit set to expire June 30, 2004.
-- Michael Goldberg
Wesley K. Clark
Hometown: Little Rock, Ark.
Current job: Presidential candidate
I.T. experience: Clark served as a board member or adviser to several high-tech companies including Acxiom Corp., Entrust Inc. and WaveCrest Laboratories LLC. At Acxiom, he was a member of the board's audit committee. He also scouted many high-tech companies as managing director of Little Rock-based investment banking company Stephens. He's an avid BlackBerry user.
Background: After successfully leading the Kosovo war as NATO's Supreme Allied Commander for Europe, the four-star general was maneuvered out of his job in 2000 and forced to retire from the military. He then entered the business world. Working with small companies that develop technology and security solutions for the government, Clark provided them with an entree into the Pentagon and insight into soldiers' and commanders' needs. He also impressed his new colleagues with his understanding of economics and world markets as well as his management advice. One former business colleague says Clark made more accurate predictions about the wireless market than the technology analysts. Acxiom CEO Charles Morgan says that in 2002, when executives discussed how to reduce personnel costs, Clark was the first to raise the issue of how layoffs and pay reductions would affect morale.
Critical infrastructure: Clark understands that the country needs to use information technology to identify security threats. In the press release announcing his appointment to Acxiom's board in December 2001, Clark says the ability to assemble, integrate and understand information "will be one of the most important drivers of the global economy and security." Clark's plan for homeland security calls for investment in technology to help detect and respond to chemical and biological threats.
Jobs: In an essay on his website titled "The 100 Year Vision," Clark says he understands the economic forces that drive U.S. companies to countries where labor is cheap. To counter those forces, Clark has proposed giving up to $5,000 in tax credits to businesses for each American they hire full-time in 2004 and 2005.
Privacy: Thanks to his membership on the board of data-mining software vendor Acxiom, Clark is well-versed in the technology available to comb private records in search of suspected terrorists. His involvement with the company provoked criticism from rival Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.), who during an interview on Fox News last September said that Clark's relationship with Acxiom raises concerns about his regard for individual privacy rights. For his part, the general says he wants to balance homeland security and protecting privacy.
Clark helped craft a report for the Markle Foundation titled "Protecting America's Freedom in the Information Age," along with a group of tech-industry luminaries that includes former Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale, who supported President Bush in 2000. One of the report's recommendations is that information owned by private companies that is relevant to the fight against terrorism should be left in the companies' hands and not consolidated into government databases.
Corporate governance: Clark says he would put more money behind the SEC's enforcement efforts and undertake reforms to restore investors' confidence in the financial markets, though he provides no details.
Information technology: Clark does not have a public position on this issue.
-- Meridith Levinson
Hometown: East Hampton, N.Y.
Current job: Presidential candidate
I.T. experience: As governor of Vermont from 1991 to 2002, Dean promoted science and engineering education. Otherwise, his IT leadership has been less than exemplary, according to the Government Performance Project sponsored by The Pew Charitable Trusts in partnership with Governing Magazine. Vermont got a C+ for its IT in 2001, because its CIO had only one staffer and the state was slow to put transactions on the Web.
Background: Dean is the poster boy for using the Internet in this campaign season. His website has been instrumental in energizing supporters and raising money, particularly from small donors. In the third quarter of 2003, 60 percent of contributions to Dean were of less than $200, and about half of those were made online, according to Dick Rowe, director of the Internet and information services for the Dean campaign. The site also hosts an official blog, lets volunteers sign up to canvass voters door to door and helps supporters organize "meet-ups" -- 910 gatherings in some 600 cities on Dec. 3 alone -- without consulting campaign managers. The latter is a sea change from the traditional presidential campaign, in which campaign officials have complete control over events.
Critical infrastructure: Dean wants to provide more communications equipment and protective gear to emergency personnel who would be the first responders in case of a terrorist attack. He also advocates more spending on border security, including new technology to better detect threats "before they cross our borders." In a speech at Carnegie Mellon University in 2002, he said that states should make their networks more secure immediately; one method he advocates is the use of smart cards with digital chips containing personal information to ensure the identity of state employees when they access a network. Dean also said smart cards could replace citizens' drivers' licenses as the most widely used form of personal identification and be used to enhance security at borders and other vital checkpoints.
Jobs: Dean doesn't mention high-tech jobs in speeches, but says he would find ways that U.S. companies could meet their need for workers at all skill levels without pitting foreigners against Americans. As governor of Vermont, Dean requested that the Vermont Technology Council produce the state's first science and technology education plan, which it did in 1994. In 1995, as part of the implementation of the plan, he endorsed the creation of the Vermont Academy of Science and Engineering, a nonprofit group that honors distinguished achievement and promotes science and technology in the state.
Privacy: Dean says he'll balance national security and protecting civil liberties. He says he's concerned about provisions of the Patriot Act that allow law enforcement agencies to obtain personal information from places such as banks and libraries without "individualized suspicion and without meaningful judicial review." He has also questioned parts of the law that allow investigators to track a person's Internet use without probable cause and allow wiretaps in criminal cases using the less strict guidelines reserved for intelligence investigations.
Dean says privacy could be enhanced through the use of the smart cards he advocates as ID cards for citizens. Card readers could confirm a person's identity but limit access to any more information than necessary for a particular transaction. For example, an emergency medical technician could access a person's medical history in the event of an accident, or a clerk in a liquor store could access a person's age -- but all other information about the person would be off limits.
Corporate governance: Dean decries inadequate corporate governance, including a lack of independent corporate boards. He would support legislation and Securities and Exchange Commission regulation to mitigate conflicts of interest, such as when vendors and customers serve on each other's boards. His agenda to establish greater corporate accountability includes requiring companies to issue annual corporate governance reports.
Information technology: He believes state government networks should be able to share information when appropriate and suggests at least some IT standards would be necessary to accomplish this. For example, one state's smart card reader should be able to read smart cards from other states.
-- Todd Datz
John R. Edwards
Hometown: Seneca, S.C.
Current job: U.S. senator
I.T. experience: Telecom and high tech are important -- and growing -- sectors of North Carolina's economy, so it's no surprise that Edwards has immersed himself in technology issues to serve this constituency. He's a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and its Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security. He's also on the Select Committee on Intelligence, and the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, whose jurisdiction includes the telecom and high-tech industries.
Background: Edwards burst on the political scene as a celebrity in 1998, spending more than $6 million of his own money to defeat North Carolina Republican Sen. Lauch Faircloth. In his first month in office, Edwards was tapped to help oversee depositions in President Clinton's impeachment trial (he ended up taking Monica's). In 2000, he made Al Gore's short list of potential VPs and was dubbed the year's "Sexiest Politician" by People magazine. On the campaign trail, however, Edwards touts his blue-collar roots, defining himself as the quintessential small-town boy who made good. The son of a textile mill worker and a letter carrier, Edwards was the first in his family to attend college. He went on to become a successful trial lawyer -- and a self-made millionaire. As a Southerner in the race, Edwards has to do well in the South Carolina primary on Feb. 3 to stay in contention.
Critical infrastructure: Edwards thinks cybersecurity should be a "higher priority" for the federal government. In 2003, he introduced eight bills to improve homeland security, including the National Cyber Security Leadership Act, which would require all federal agencies to adopt best practices for securing their computers against cyberattacks.
Jobs: He voted to increase the cap on H-1B visas in 2000. In his campaign platform, he says he would establish a Rural Economic Advancement Challenge fund, to bring venture capital and management expertise to entrepreneurs and small businesses in small towns and other areas that are losing jobs. His logic: Why launch a startup in Palo Alto when you can get VC funding -- and affordable housing -- in Peoria?
Privacy: Edwards introduced anti-spyware legislation in 2000 that would require software companies and website operators to get users' consent before collecting information about them or tracking their computer usage. Much of his language made it into the Online Personal Privacy Act that passed the Senate Commerce Committee in 2002. Edwards voted for the Patriot Act but now says he wants to amend the law to strike a better balance between ferreting out terrorists and protecting individual privacy. He has introduced bills to protect bank and medical records and to prevent marketers' abuse of wireless device users' location information. He has also called for a bipartisan commission to look into surveillance technologies being used by the FBI and police post-9/11. Edwards supports biometric identifiers for ID cards.
Corporate governance: Edwards proposes a workers and shareholders bill of rights that he says would restore honest accounting, curb excessive CEO pay, hold managers accountable for results, restore pension parity and eliminate corporate tax abuse. He thinks companies should be required to expense stock options.
Information technology: Edwards advocates investment in a national broadband infrastructure that would ensure rural communities have affordable Internet access within four years. He would offer assistance to rural businesses, schools and hospitals so that they can reap the benefits of the Internet. He advocates a tax credit for investments in broadband technology and has suggested that the Universal Service Fund (which subsidizes telcos for delivering service to low-income and remote areas) could be used to promote rural broadband deployment.
-- Alice Dragoon
Richard A. Gephardt
Hometown: St. Louis, Mo.
Current job: Member, U.S. House of Representatives
I.T. experience: As House minority leader (a post he held until 2002), Gephardt established the Democratic Advisory Group on High-Tech Issues in the late 1990s to champion IT policy.
Background: A member of Congress since 1976, Gephardt for the past decade has opposed major trade deals, including Nafta and the establishment of normal trade relations with China, on the grounds that Americans should not be forced to compete for jobs against workers in countries that exploit labor and fail to protect the environment.
Gephardt, who ran unsuccessfully for president in 1988, touts his humble roots and his middle-class means -- his father drove a milk truck, his mother worked as a secretary, and his son, Matt, survived cancer as a toddler because the family's health insurance covered an experimental treatment. Though Gephardt counts labor unions among his closest political allies, key unions for health-care and municipal workers are backing rival Howard Dean. Gephardt's chances for the nomination depend on a strong showing against Dean in Iowa on Jan. 19.
Critical infrastructure: Gephardt opposed a provision in the Homeland Security Act exempting information that companies report to the government about their network vulnerabilities from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. At the time, supporters deemed it essential for collecting data on security weaknesses, while critics said companies could use the provision, which is now law, to hide material information from investors and customers. Gephardt has not said publicly whether the government should regulate corporate IT security.
Jobs: In 1998 and 2000, Gephardt backed increases in the number of H-1B visas for technology workers, along with measures to promote the training of more Americans for high-tech jobs. In campaign speeches, he evokes the plight of American IT workers. "I've been to China, to India, to Indonesia, places where the most sophisticated high-tech labor is done for a few dollars a day," he says. "We have to raise global standards and wages so that everyone does better."
Gephardt says his plan to negotiate minimum wages for every country in the World Trade Organization would raise living standards -- so U.S. workers, including technology workers, would not have to compete with "slave, sweatshop and child labor."
Privacy: He supports a national ID card system, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. He's voted to include biometric data on passports and visas. In 2001, he said companies should be allowed to police themselves when it comes to protecting consumer privacy online. But he also voted, in 2000, to prohibit financial companies from sharing private customer information with third parties under Gramm-Leach-Bliley.
Corporate governance: Gephardt voted for the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. He told the AFL-CIO that "it's time we aggressively enforced our laws to ensure that the actions of our companies are properly disclosed and reported." He says he would appoint members to the Securities and Exchange Commission "who represent the interests of the workers and the investing public." He says granting stock options to rank-and-file employees is an important way to make workers feel like owners, and he opposes requiring companies to count employee stock options as expenses.
Information technology: As House minority leader in 2002, he called for doubling the nation's investment in IT without saying how this would be done. He backs more funding for research into security technologies and supports a permanent tax credit for research and development generally. In 2000, he said the Justice Department was "justified" to bring its antitrust case against Microsoft but has offered no subsequent opinion on the case. He wants to provide high-speed Internet access to every American by the end of the decade to stimulate economic growth, and he would give tax credits to companies that invest in broadband facilities or services.
-- Elana Varon
John F. Kerry
Current job: U.S. senator
I.T. experience: An early watchdog on consumer Internet privacy, Kerry sponsored a bill in 2000 with Sen. John McCain that would require website operators to notify visitors about the collection of personal information and to provide the opportunity to limit its use."It is up to Congress to establish a floor for Internet privacy," Kerry said at the bill's introduction. Though the bill didn't pass, it served as the basis for new legislation that is now pending.
His constituency includes the prototype for Silicon Valley, Route 128, a highway ring around Boston where many early technology companies got their start in the 1960s. His involvement with constituents has made him more technology aware than most of his competitors for the presidency, says Ari Schwartz, associate director of the pro-consumer Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT). Kerry is also a member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation.
Background: With his jutting jaw and big helmet of hair, Kerry looks every bit the decorated Vietnam War hero he is. As a college student, he wrestled bulls in the streets of Pamplona rather than merely running with them, and today he still acts macho, flying barrel rolls in his plane and windsurfing in squalls, according to The Washington Post. Critics argue that he hypes his war hero image to counter his liberal stands on economic and social issues. The early leader in the primary race, Kerry has faded as Howard Dean has taken clearer stands on the war in Iraq and social and economic issues, galvanizing liberals behind him.
Critical infrastructure: Kerry voted for the Homeland Security Act, which includes a provision that exempts information that private companies volunteer about their information security vulnerabilities from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. He later cosponsored a doomed bill that would have softened that stance somewhat by limiting the exemption to internal, confidential information. Kerry is one of Congress's experts in terrorist money laundering and helped craft legislation that became part of the Patriot Act. But he is skeptical of other portions of the act and cosponsored a bill in 2003 that would limit the use of surveillance and the issuance of search warrants.
Jobs: Responding to the backlash against foreign outsourcing, Kerry introduced a bill in 2003 that would require call center service agents to identify the country where they are located at the beginning of each call. "Americans should have full information about the outsourcing of call center jobs when they decide who they will purchase their products and services from," he says. Kerry's platform calls for an emphasis on education to keep knowledge jobs in the United States -- including a $4,000 annual tuition tax credit to encourage kids to go to college, and a program that allows students to earn college tuition in exchange for two years of community service.
Privacy: One of Congress's most outspoken proponents of consumer privacy, Kerry takes a practical approach, says CDT's Schwartz. "He has been a bridge between consumer interests and the corporate interests in terms of trying to come up with practical solutions (that serve both)."
Corporate governance: Kerry, like every other U.S. senator, voted for Sarbanes-Oxley. He supports the expensing of stock options and has sponsored a bill that would end the use of offshore tax havens.
Information technology: Kerry has long pushed for permanent research and development tax credits for computer and Internet companies. His work on a bill that equates electronic signatures with handwritten ones would speed up electronic funds transfer. And he cosponsored a bill enacted in 2003 to establish a national nanotechnology research program.
-- Christopher Koch
Joseph I. Lieberman
Hometown: Stamford, Conn.
Current job: U.S. senator
I.T. experience: Lieberman is the former chairman and current top Democrat on the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, which oversees how federal agencies use IT. He authored the E-Government Act, which aims to improve citizens' access to government services and information. Lieberman has been lauded by the high-tech interest groups TechNet and the Information Technology Industry Council for his support of the technology industry.
Background: Lieberman is well known as the man who almost became vice president in 2000. First elected to the Senate in 1988, he positions himself as a centrist, although he espoused more liberal views on some issues as former Vice President Al Gore's running mate. He is a cofounder of the Senate New Democrat Coalition, which seeks to advance a slate of e-commerce-friendly policies. The first Democrat to publicly scold President Clinton for the Lewinsky affair, and a critic of the entertainment industry's promotion of violence, Lieberman has also been called "the conscience of the Senate."
Critical infrastructure: After 9/11, Lieberman pushed for the Department of Homeland Security to have a strong Directorate of Science and Technology, modeled after the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and championed a $500 million "Acceleration Fund" to rapidly commercialize promising technologies for homeland security. His E-Government Act, which President Bush signed into law in December 2002, includes a mandate for security standards and annual independent security audits for federal agencies' IT systems. He thinks government should partner with industry to develop voluntary standards for cybersecurity in the private sector, but would consider requiring software that runs critical infrastructure to meet security and reliability standards.
Jobs: He coauthored the Tech Talent law to encourage universities to beef up science and engineering programs to increase the high-tech labor pool. He supported an increase in the number of H-1B visas in 1998 and 2000 but wants to curb visa abuses. He advocates a tax credit for companies that create new jobs.
Privacy: The privacy provisions of Lieberman's E-Government Act are considered by some experts to be the most important governmental privacy rules in 30 years. The law requires agencies to assess the impact on privacy for any new or significantly revamped IT systems used to collect personal information. Lieberman voted for the Patriot Act and envisions increasing technology use to stop crime and terrorism. But he thinks the government should not invade the privacy of innocent Americans.
Corporate governance: Lieberman supports the Sarbanes-Oxley corporate accountability legislation, and calls for "aggressive and consistent enforcement" of the law. A believer in the importance of stock options to entrepreneurial ventures, he led the crusade in 1993 against a proposed accounting rule change that would have required companies to expense stock options. Now he has proposed legislation he says would discourage abuse of options. His bill would deny options-related tax deductions to companies that don't distribute at least half of their options to employees earning less than $90,000 a year.
Information technology: Lieberman supports making the R&D tax credit permanent. He would offer tax incentives to expand deployment of broadband. His goal is to provide every home and small business with a high-speed Internet connection in the next decade.
Among his research priorities, Lieberman would increase support for research into advanced wireless broadband technologies and nanotechnology.
-- Alice Dragoon