High tech has a growing interest in politics. Aside from personal values and inclinations, industry CEOs have grown to recognize that federal and state governments have a massive influence on how their companies do business. Whether regulation of gig economy businesses like Uber or policy on net neutrality, tech businesses can't afford to ignore politics.

It's why Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg started a super PAC to push Washington on some industry hot-button issues, including education, immigration reform, and long-term economic improvement. Years ago, Google ramped up its lobbying efforts. Tech companies donate money to candidates that they like, or keep it from the ones they don't.

That brings us to the impending meeting between Donald Trump and tech CEOs on December 14 in New York, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, which obtained a copy of the invitation. Trump has asked top industry executives to a "technology roundtable." The invitation was signed by RNC chair and incoming White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, and Peter Thiel, the Silicon Valley investor who was virtually alone among major tech figures to back Trump and also the man who funded the lawsuit that took down Gawker. Most of the figures in tech "nearly unanimously endorsed Hillary Clinton and denounced Mr. Trump in part because of his campaign statements about limiting free trade and immigration," as the New York Times put it.

It's a get-together that could be extremely unpleasant for the tech crowd. Trump's meeting last month with network execs and news anchors was, as one source called it, "like a f---ing firing squad." Trump reportedly railed against pretty much everyone, catching them by surprise. He's known for holding grudges, and one can only wonder what he might say to a group of the tech elite that not only spurned him, but did so leaving no doubt of the little regard they had for him.

There are many things the tech industry wants from government. First on the list is to lower boundaries to immigration so companies can hire talent from all over the world. Although Trump's anti-immigration focus has been largely on the country's southern border and people entering without legal permission, it could be a sticky point.

Taxes could be another hard point, with money being structured to flow across borders artificially licensing technology tech companies transfer to companies they own in other countries. There was Trump's claim that he would force Apple and other companies to manufacture products in the US rather than abroad, which could be pretty tricky as it would require building factories to do so. And Trump has said he doesn't like net neutrality, which is supported by such tech giants as Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Twitter.

Who knows? It may all work out. Perhaps there is enough common ground in free markets and an interest in remaining a leader in tech. But consensus is hardly a given, and the reports coming out of the roundtable should be interesting and telling for the future of a major economic sector.

Published on: Dec 7, 2016
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