Techies Turned Politicians

With former HP chief Carly Fiorina likely running for Senate, we ask: what other techies have launched political careers?


Former HP CEO Carly Fiorina is preparing to run for a U.S. Senate seat in California. (See report.) She's not the first tech executive or inventor to turn political. Let's take a look at some previous techies-turned-politicians.


Samuel Morse

Tech credentials: Born in 1791, Morse created the single-wire telegraph system, leading to the telegraph's commercial success; and invented Morse code.

Political life: After becoming active in anti-Catholic and anti-immigration movements, Morse unsuccessfully ran for mayor of New York City in 1836 and 1841. Despite his political failures, Morse in 1842 was able to convince Congress to provide $30,000 to wire up the United States in support of his telegraph system.


Ross Perot

Tech credentials: Perot became a computer salesman for IBM in the late 1950s and in 1962 he founded Electronic Data Systems in Dallas. EDS is now a subsidiary of HP.

Political life: Perot ran for U.S. president in both 1992 and 1996 as a third-party candidate, receiving almost 19% of the popular vote in the '92 election captured by Bill Clinton.


Meg Whitman

Tech credentials: Whitman was president and CEO of Web auction giant eBay for a decade until her departure in 2008.

Political life: Whitman served in Mitt Romney's unsuccessful run for president and is now running for governor of California as a Republican. Whitman raised nearly $11 million in campaign funds in the first six months of this year.


Craig Benson

Tech credentials: Benson was the founder and CEO of Cabletron Systems, a New Hampshire company started in 1983 to build networking equipment. In 2000 Cabletron was split up into four separate companies including Enterasys, which still sells network switching, routing and security products.

Political life: A Republican, Benson was elected governor of New Hampshire in 2002 in a landslide, promising to bring his corporate and technological know-how to state government. But he lost his office in a close election just two years later, becoming the first New Hampshire governor in 78 years to be denied a second term.


Jared Polis

Tech credentials: Polis founded several companies including American Information Systems, an Internet access, Web hosting and application service provider.

Political life: A Democrat, Polis was elected to the Colorado State Board of Education in 2000, and this year was sworn into Congress as a U.S. Representative from the 2nd district of Colorado. He is one of the few openly gay members of Congress.


Eric Schmidt and Craig Mundie

You wouldn't use the word politician to describe Schmidt (Google's CEO) and Mundie (chief research and strategy officer for Microsoft), but both are advising President Obama as part of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Schmidt has donated more than $250,000 to Democrats and $40,000 to Republicans.


John Chambers

Cisco CEO Chambers is another tech executive who has gotten political, not by running for office but by serving on presidential task forces. Chambers was vice chairman of Bush's National Infrastructure Advisory Council (NIAC), and served on President Clinton's Trade Policy Committee. Chambers has made campaign contributions of more than $1 million to Republicans and $180,000 to Democrats.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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