The San Diego representative is an engineer by training and made his (substantial wealth) patenting car alarm technology. As a Congressman, he recently created both the "Internet of Things" Caucus and the Sharing Economy Caucus to advance legislation for tech startups in these emerging industries. Most importantly to Silicon Valley, he's been the Republican architect for high-skilled immigration reform—the tech industry's number one issue.
The tech industry, now one of the largest private sector lobbying forces in Washington DC, hasn't had much to say as Republicans scramble to find a new Speaker for the House of Representatives. But now, Congress's geekiest member, Representative Darrell Issa, is "considering" putting his hat in the ring, turning heads in the well-heeled tech halls of DC.
"This Congress, and the next and beyond, will have to deal with many issues underpinned by technology, and having someone in the Speaker's chair with that perspective will continue to be important," said Michael McGeary, former political director of the tech policy lobby, Engine Advocacy. "Issa, as an entrepreneur himself and certainly a leader for many years on tech issues.”
Now he may step directly into the spotlight as a key figure on The Hill.
Issa was also one of the first members to come out against the infamous Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which eventually erupted in a massive blackout protest by Internet sites across the web. He even funded his own nonprofit, the Open Government Foundation, which builds technology for publically crowdsourcing state and federal legislation.
"There's a lot of excitement for Issa potentially running for it, because it'd be a huge win for the tech community," said one DC lobbyist of a large tech company on the condition of anonymity. Even this particular source, who used to work with the Congressman, couldn't speak on the record because tech companies have to play in the shadows in the race for a new Speaker.
"Regardless of who tech might favor, it's a matter of burning bridges of the other members who might be in the running," he explains.
For those not following the play-by-play of Republican politics, no one expected that the long-time leader of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, would abruptly quit his post last month. So, as is expected within any group of ambitious folks without a leader, there's a mad scramble of people to fill the power vacuum.
Issa made headlines Friday morning for stating he would “consider" running for one of the most powerful positions in American government. But that’s practically political-speak for “I will run, but I’m seeing what public support may be lurking in the background first.”
For the tech industry, this obscure political fight just got a lot more interesting. And on social media, I suspect that we may witness more political interest coming from otherwise apolitical tech circles. It's certainly worth watching.
Lead photo by Ron Cogswell