Commentary
1/6/2006
05:55 PM
Paul McDougall
Paul McDougall
Commentary

IT Confidential: ITAA's Miller Wants To Go To Washington



Harris Miller, aka the Antichrist if you're an unemployed IT worker, is gearing up for a Senate run as--a Democrat? "I think businesspeople can be good Democrats," Miller told me last week. "I'm proud to be a businessman; my father was a small businessman."

Miller stepped down as president of the Information Technology Association of America last week to focus on his campaign for one of Virginia's Senate seats. The ITAA is a high-tech industry lobby group backed by the likes of IBM, Intel, and Microsoft. Through the ITAA, these heavyweights have been pushing the federal government to ease restrictions on the hiring of immigrant tech labor and quash bills that would limit their ability to move operations to low-cost countries.

As recently as October, Miller chastised the feds for making it too cumbersome for ITAA members to hire foreigners. "The current H-1B visa cap makes it increasingly difficult for U.S. companies to compete in global markets," he said. As for outsourcing, another bogeyman that trade unions, some legislators, and Lou Dobbs say will have all of us flipping burgers at McDonald's, Miller thinks it's a good thing. "Global sourcing continues to be a net positive for American workers and the U.S. economy," he said in an October release.

Hmmm. One Democrat called execs who outsource "Benedict Arnold CEOs." To his credit, Miller isn't changing his tune now. John Kerry's quip was "an outrageous statement not befitting a person who should understand how the global marketplace operates," Miller told me during our phone chat.

That's not to say Miller thinks he can bag the nomination by telling U.S. IT workers to eat cake. Sounding a shade more populist than during his 11 years at ITAA, Miller said the government needs to do a better job retraining pros whose jobs have been outsourced. Specifically, trade-adjustment assistance, a federal program that gives financial compensation to U.S. manufacturers hammered by cheap imports, should be extended to the tech industry. He also wants to see more national spending on IT infrastructure and education.

Has Miller become a true centrist? Some bloggers aren't buying it. "The tech community may not be so enamored of him given his support for allowing more foreign hi-tech workers into the U.S.," TooConservative.com notes.

It's not just labor that's less than thrilled with Miller's run for office. Oracle pulled out of the ITAA upon learning of his Senate bid. It seems the company believes GOP Sen. George Allen, the man Miller would unseat, is doing a fine job. "It concerned many of us at Oracle that ... Miller would consider challenging Senator Allen, considering the great things he's done," Oracle legal VP Robert Hoffman said in an E-mail.

Miller thinks Oracle's decision is bizarre. "I'm not running as an ITAA employee, and I don't know how anyone could assume that," he said.

Is there more to Oracle's attachment to Allen? Could it be his introduction of the Federal Internet Tax Prohibition Act? Could it be related to his November tour of Oracle's facilities in China? Could it have something to do with the fact that, as governor of Virginia in 1996, Allen convinced Oracle to locate a development center in his state? We don't know. But this story should get better and better.

Watch The News Show at noon ET every weekday, at TheNewsShow.tv or InformationWeek.com. John Soat will return to this column next week. Send industry tips to [email protected] or 516-562-5326.

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