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HindustanTimes Thu,23 Oct 2014

World

Silicon Valley: Yes to techies, no to Indian IT firms
Eric Lipton and Somini Sengupta, NYT
Washington, May 06, 2013
First Published: 00:45 IST(6/5/2013)
Last Updated: 02:37 IST(6/5/2013)

The television advertisement that hit the airwaves in Florida last month featured the Republican Party's rising star, Sen. Marco Rubio, boasting about his get-tough plan for border security.

But most viewers who watched the commercial, sponsored by a new group that calls itself Americans for a Conservative Direction, may be surprised to learn who bankrolled it: senior executives from Silicon Valley, like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn, who run firms where the top employees donate mostly to Democrats.

The advertising blitz reflects the sophisticated lobbying campaign being waged by these companies and their executives.

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They have managed to secure much of what they want in the landmark immigration bill now pending in Congress, provisions that would allow them to fill thousands of job vacancies with foreign-born engineers. At the same time, they have openly encouraged lawmakers to make it harder for consulting companies in India and elsewhere to provide foreign workers temporarily to this country.

Those deals were worked out through what Senate negotiators acknowledged was extraordinary access by American companies to staff members who drafted the bill. The companies often learned about detailed provisions even before all the members of the so-called Gang of Eight senators who worked out the package were informed.

The profound transition underway inside Silicon Valley companies is illustrated by their lobbying disclosure reports filed in Congress. Facebook's lobbying budget swelled from $351,000 in 2010 to $2.45 million in the first three months of this year, while Google spent a record $18 million last year.

That boom in spending translates into hiring of top talent in the art of Washington deal-making. Companies like Facebook and Intel use them largely to bring workers to their own offices. Consulting companies like Tata, based in India, use them to supply computer workers at American firms.

What emerged was a Senate measure that allows American companies to procure more skilled guest worker visas, raising the limit to 110,000 a year from 65,000 under current law, along with a provision to expand it further based on market demand. The bill would also allow these firms to move workers on guest visas more easily to permanent resident visas, freeing up more temporary visas for these firms.


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