March 14, 2018


Chamber's Liaison to Silicon Valley Battles 'Techlash'

By Alan K. Ota, CQ

In January, Thomas J. Donohue, the president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, called for joint efforts to counter a “techlash” and to avert “broad regulatory overreach that stifles innovation.”

The chamber’s man tasked with advancing these efforts is Tim Day, who serves as a bridge between the chamber — a lobby for what has been, traditionally, a very conservative constituency of American businesses — and the upstart technology companies that are looking to shake up the status quo.

To that end, Day has been working to rally a range of chamber members and other allies on common themes as a senior vice president and head of the Chamber Technology Engagement Center, known as C_TEC. “We give the technology sector a platform at the chamber,” Day says.

Over the past year, Day has helped win support for the House-passed (HR 3388) national framework that would bar states and localities from regulating the design, construction or performance of self-driving vehicles. He also has argued for streamlining federal permits and limiting state and local regulations to expedite the rollout of fifth generation, or 5G, wireless networks.

Last summer, Day said in a House hearing that he agreed with telecommunications company Qualcomm, a C_TEC member, that any federal frameworks “should tread very carefully” to let any and all innovative, and potentially groundbreaking technologies “be freely developed.”

Some longtime political observers like California GOP Rep. Darrell Issa, who has worked with Day on legislative measures, predict Day and the chamber will find common ground with Silicon Valley on implementation of the tax overhaul and curbs to regulation and lawsuits. But Issa says the chamber may find it harder to forge consensus on more specialized, divisive issues like whether to tweak certain intellectual property laws or leave them alone. Such fissures and contentious disputes over climate change helped lead some big Silicon Valley companies like Apple and Yahoo to leave the chamber over the years.

“As you get a larger and larger organization like the chamber, by definition, you’re going to tend to represent the status quo,” Issa says. Day volleys back that the chamber shapes priorities in response to diverse members “whether that’s a disrupter or a company that’s being disrupted.”

“We’re never going to be 100 percent with the tech sector,” Day says. “My job at C_TEC is to make sure that the tech position — and their views — are at least considered.”

In a split with some technology companies, the chamber backed the Federal Communications Commission’s party-line 3-2 vote on Dec. 14 to repeal 2-year-old common-carrier net neutrality mandates. Big online businesses like Google and Facebook attacked the ruling for giving too much leeway to internet service providers like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon to provide faster delivery of certain content for a fee.

But the chamber sided with internet service providers in arguing that a lighter regulatory scheme would spur investment, and Day says it would allow consumers “to access content on the internet while promoting growth and innovation.”

Despite such fights, Day says technology companies would find benefits in working with the chamber. “The diversity of our membership along with our network of state and local chambers is extremely powerful,” he says.

Raised in Bellefontaine, Ohio, 60 miles northwest of Columbus, the son of an insurance agent and a registered nurse, Day moved to Washington after graduating from Cedarville College, serving as an intern for Texas Republican Rep. Joe L. Barton, and as a legislative director and top aide, respectively, for former House Republicans from Ohio, David L. Hobson and Deborah Pryce.

Pryce, now chairman of the Ohio Liquor Control Commission and a senior political adviser at consulting firm Ice Miller Whiteboard, calls Day “one of the most prepared people I’ve ever seen” and says he helped her make pitches and whip votes in several caucus races. He left her office to become a lobbyist for NCR, maker of ATMs and software, in 2001, a year before Pryce was elected conference chairman.

“He will have everybody’s perspective. And he’ll know where the fault lines are and where they can come together,” Pryce says.

At NCR, Day helped push for enactment of a check-clearing law in 2003 to allow digital copies, or substitute versions, of paper checks.

In 2007, Day joined Teradata, an NCR spinoff, as a lobbyist and helped to push for government data access and transparency standards. He also helped to organize the Data Coalition, an advocacy group for the publication of government information as standardized, machine-readable data.

Two years ago, Day says he was drawn to the chamber by the opportunity to build alliances on technology-related issues.

Now, he says, technology companies should be aware that regulators and lawmakers are beginning to look at them “with a very close microscope.”

“That’s a new world for them. And I don’t know that tech is prepared for that new world,” Day says.

Source: CQ Magazine

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