Tech Could Tip Scales in Washington Senate Race
Pro-Microsoft Murray expected to face conservative challenger With troops still in Iraq and seniors puzzling over the future of their Medicare coverage, technology issues aren’t a top political concern even in Microsoft’s home state of Washington. Yet IT could sway the vote in the looming election battle between two-term Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat, and her likely Republican challenger, Rep. George Nethercutt Jr.
Washington lost more than 10,000 IT jobs in 2002, according to the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers, also known as WashTech, a technology worker union. And, says Bryan Jones, director of the Center for American Politics and Public Policy at the University of Washington, Murray could try to score points with voters by highlighting her pro-tech record. Others, like Lew McMurran, public and governmental affairs director with the local trade group WSA (formerly Washington Software Alliance), contend Murray’s technology experience offers no advantages.
Republicans are targeting Murray because they believe she is vulnerable to an aggressive, pro-business campaign, according to many political observers. Nethercutt, who is from Spokane in the eastern part of the state, became an instant GOP star when he unseated then-House Speaker Tom Foley in 1994, the year the Republicans recaptured the majority in the House. He was recruited by the White House to run for the Senate this year after Republican Rep. Jennifer Dunn, who, like Murray, is from the Seattle area, declined to run. Although Nethercutt may face a primary challenge in September for the GOP nomination, he is expected to run against Murray in November.
Nethercutt’s district is home to companies in such industries as the military, health care and manufacturing. Although he has backed pro-IT legislation, including free-trade policies that would help software exports, he is better known for working to obtain funding for the war in Iraq as well as budgeting for new jet-refueling tankers built by Boeing. The tankers would be deployed at Fairchild Air Force Base near Spokane.
Murray, who’s worked to loosen restrictions on encryption exports and to provide money for technology training for teachers, emerged as a chief defender of Microsoft during the U.S. Department of Justice’s antitrust case against the company. Employees of the software giant have shown their appreciation to the tune of $33,802 toward her reelection, according to federal election data compiled by OpenSecrets.org, which reports on campaign contributions. Nethercutt has so far received just $5,000 from supporters at Microsoft.
Nanotech Gets Commercialization Push
Federal funding would take emerging science out of lab
Legislation signed by President Bush in December 2003 created a new unit of the National Science Foundation to coordinate nanotechnology research, and authorized $3.7 billion during the next four years to fund commercialization of this largely experimental technology.
Nanotechnology is the ability to manipulate individual atoms and molecules to create new substances and change the properties of existing ones (the term itself refers to both the new products and the technology used to produce them). In IT, nanotechnology may enable such breakthroughs as computers with unlimited processing power. Toward that end, IBM has announced that it used nanotechnology to create silicon chips with memory cells 1/100th the size of the cells currently in use.
However, these early nanotechnology projects cannot be commercialized because there’s no equipment for mass production. The government will be able to help by coordinating and funding the development of commercial production capacity, says Mark Modzelewski, founder and executive director of The NanoBusiness Alliance.
While most IT-related nanoproducts are still years away, Rohit Shukla, president and CEO of Larta, a nanotechnology think tank, says it’s important for CIOs to start thinking about how to take advantage of its potential. But contemplating nanotechnology’s impact on anything is a tall order. To get started, check out the government’s nanotechnology website at www.nano.gov.