GOP Gives High-Tech Issues a Light Touch

WASHINGTON (08/04/2000) - At their convention in Philadelphia this week, Republicans avoided taking hard stands on just about all the major high-tech issues, including online privacy and Internet taxation.

But some people, such as John Palafoutas, senior vice president of domestic policy at the American Electronics Association, a Washington-based trade group, saw clues to the party's direction in its choice of speakers.

For instance, one of the speakers, Virginia Gov. James Gilmore, is a staunch opponent of requiring e-commerce sites to collect sales tax in states where they have no legal obligation to do so. "Nobody got on the podium without George Bush's approval," said Palafoutas, who was at the convention.

But Republicans, like Democrats, are deeply split on the taxation issues. There are GOP governors, like Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt, who oppose Gilmore's views.

High-tech groups aren't expecting the Democrats to do or say anything much different at their upcoming convention.

"Fortunately, our issues are below the radar screen of partisan politics, and that's a good place to be," said Ken Wasch, president of the Software & Information Industry Association in Washington.

Although the GOP convention didn't stir the high-tech issues all that much, there are sharp battles being fought in Congress over privacy, taxation, H-1B visas and other technology-related issues.

Some information technology managers said they aren't sure yet how the election will affect the work they do.

Tim Brennan, a systems administrator at Burlington Coat Factory Warehouse Corp. in Burlington, N.J., said he didn't see anything raised in the convention coverage he watched on television that would "change our course of action."

But Brennan said he would like the politicians to demonstrate an understanding of technology and a "willingness to continue supporting research and development."

Dan Orr, information systems director at Kokosing Construction Co. in Fredericktown, Ohio, said one thing he would like to see accomplished is for the government to get its "arms around the Internet," particularly in stopping online gambling.

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