It has been a great many months since I last updated this site. For those who somehow missed the memo, I capped off a seven-year run at the helm of Politico’s tech team and joined Recode, where I’m now the senior editor for policy and politics. In two months, I’ve had a number of major stories — here are the highlights:
Chronicling Silicon Valley’s political renaissance: In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s presidential election victory, the tech engineers, executives and investors who dominate the country’s tech capital are leading the charge to fight the White House — and rethink the Democratic Party. I wrote in May about a tech-inclined group that’s aiding long-shot congressional candidates in places like Montana. I broke the story on the launch of Higher Ground Labs, an effort by President Barack Obama’s former aides to invest in better campaign technology. I covered the launch of Hillary Clinton’s new nonprofit, Onward Together, which has invested in a group that’s notorious for prodding Facebook, Google and others on civil-rights issues.
Covering the Trump White House: Meanwhile, I’ve broken a number of stories about the president’s approach to science and technology. I’ve scooped some major hires, and written at length about a number of key government positions that remain unfilled. I brought y’all first word about an effort by Jared Kushner and crew to convene tech executives for a June meeting about modernizing government. And I got first wind of what was on the agenda — stuff like improving “citizen services” and rethinking high-skilled immigration programs.
Keeping an eye on net neutrality (yet again): It’s the debate that just won’t die. This time, new Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is looking to scrap the Obama-era agency’s rules that subject internet providers to utility-like regulation. I sat down with Pai for his first-ever major interview on net neutrality, a 30-minute long podcast you can find (along with a transcript) here. I also put together a longer piece focused on Democrats and their efforts to fight the FCC, which may or may not work out in the end.
And there’s plenty more: Like this random story about two campaigns that tried and failed to raise thousands of dollars to buy the web-browsing histories of federal lawmakers. Or this scoop about Republicans who want to leave you campaign ads in your voicemail without first ringing your phone.
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We’re days out from inauguration, and as Trump’s government comes together, I’ve got another round of scoops to share:
- More on the future of the FTC: “President-elect Donald Trump is considering tapping Sean Reyes, the attorney general of Utah, as the next chairman of the FTC, according to two sources with knowledge of the matter. . . It could spell a new headache for Google, in particular, as Reyes joined other state attorneys general last year in asking the FTC to consider re-opening its antitrust probe of the search giant.” (Plus, I had the first word that FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez is resigning in February, and the first interview with her tied to the news.)
- Google exec makes rounds with Republicans: “Eric Schmidt, one of the tech industry’s most prominent backers of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race, is trying to rekindle his relationships with Republicans as Donald Trump prepares to enter the White House. Spotted on an unannounced visit to Trump Tower on Thursday, Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google’s parent company Alphabet, lunched privately with Jared Kushner, an architect of Trump’s election victory…”
- Big changes to come to FCC: In sum, my story with my colleagues:”President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team has backed a plan to reduce the footprint and enforcement powers of the Federal Communications Commission, an overhaul of the decades-old telecom agency that could reduce regulatory pressure on companies like AT&T and Comcast, according to three sources familiar with the plans.”
It’s a short train trip from my apartment to Trump Tower, where the president-elect and his team are beginning their work to staff the incoming administration. To that end, a lot of my work lately has focused on the transition and what it means for Silicon Valley. A few examples of a couple exclusives from November and December:
- Tech is lobbying Trump a ton: “A collection of 17 organizations representing tech giants like Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Google is urging President-elect Donald Trump to engage Silicon Valley, tap private-sector expertise for key government posts and preserve some of the digital efforts that started during the Obama administration. On the campaign trail, Trump for months had talked extensively about protecting coal plants, preserving manufacturing jobs and penalizing companies that shift their workforce overseas — and he rarely discussed tech issues. Now that he’s headed to the White House, the leading lobbying groups for the Valley’s top brands are asking the president-elect to take a much broader view of the economy as he crafts his incoming team.”
- A shortlist for the FTC and DOJ: These are the agencies, after all, that have investigated companies like Google for their size. My story: “On the campaign trail, Donald Trump pledged to prohibit big media mergers like AT&T’s bid for Time Warner. Now that he’s preparing for the White House, however, his transition team is poised to pick candidates for the government’s top antitrust positions who take a more traditional conservative hands-off approach to business.”
- A rundown of candidates for the FCC: With a colleague, I reported that all eyes are on an Indiana state senator with close ties to Vice President-elect Mike Pence could be the next FCC commissioner. Other spots are also up for grabs, and we took a look at who’s in the running.
That’s right: After 10 years in D.C., I’ve packed up and relocated to New York City. I’m still the senior tech reporter at POLITICO, and it’s been a busy past few weeks — so here’s a taste of what you missed:
- Tech throws lobbying might behind Airbnb: “Tech giants and investors have rushed to Airbnb’s defense as it tries to ward off new housing regulations across the country, fearing that a loss for the home-sharing website could create headaches for the rest of the internet economy. . . Many of Silicon Valley’s leading players — including the trade groups that represent the likes of Facebook, Google and Twitter — share Airbnb’s belief that the local rules violate the Communications Decency Act, a 1996 federal law that prohibits regulators from penalizing companies for the content and conduct of their users.”
- N.Y. bombing revives emergency alert debate: “An emergency smartphone alert sent by law enforcement during the manhunt for the Manhattan bombing suspect is sparking new calls to upgrade the system, which critics say is urgently in need of a technology boost. . . . [[T]he brief notification didn’t include a photo of Rahami — instead, it urged readers to “see media for pic” — and didn’t link to more information about the suspect. That’s because wireless alerts aren’t able to handle multimedia, like photos, video or maps, and they’re capped at 90 characters in length — limitations that irk officials who say much more data should be sent to the public.”
- White House eyes regulation around AI: “The White House plans to release a policy roadmap for the fast-growing field of artificial intelligence this fall, laying out its vision for potential regulation of an industry that encompasses everything from smartphones that talk back to their owners to cars that drive themselves to supercomputers that sift through reams of data to predict the spread of disease. The effort — with only months left in the Obama administration — comes as companies like Facebook and Alphabet, the parent company of Google, try to ensure government doesn’t overreact to the technology by creating rules that will hinder its development.”
For perhaps every political or technology reporter in all the land, July has proven to be an exceptionally busy month. So here’s a solid rundown of the stories I’ve done since my last update, plucked from my newsletter, sent earlier today. Which you should sign up to receive, by the way:
Spotify declared war on Apple again, and I had to go a solid 800 words without a single shot at Fifth Harmony. I also got the big scoop on everything in Hillary Clinton’s tech policy platform a day before she unveiled it. I spent a bunch of time creepin’ on Paul Ryan for a pair of exclusives about his trip to San Francisco and fundraiser with Apple CEO Tim Cook. I wrote about Tim Kaine, newly plucked Dem VP candidate and prototypical grandpa, who has at least some background on techy things. From the backseat of a car to Ptown (true story) I interviewed a bunch of members of Congress. who are putting together a broadband initiative that’s somehow already in trouble. And before D.C. melted from the summer sun, I did a piece on the feds exploring whether to ask foreign travelers to reveal their social media accounts.
Entering the convention, I scooped a story on Uber pairing up with Dems in Philly for a special VIP service for select convention attendees. (GOP folks didn’t get much.) And while at the DNC, I moderated a panel with top Clinton and Sanders digital folks about election 2016 and data.
Somehow, it’s still election season! Awesome! Here are two new scoops from me, if you missed them over the past two weeks:
Apple CEO raising cash for top House GOP’er: “Apple CEO Tim Cook will host a fundraiser with House Speaker Paul Ryan next week as the iPhone maker tries to strengthen its relationships with key Republicans — despite its decision to pull support for the GOP convention because of its distaste for Donald Trump.”
Hillary Clinton to release tech agenda: Before the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee released her platform, I snagged a draft copy. As predicted, it “strongly defends net neutrality, calls for a special commission to study encryption and commits to bringing broadband to 100 percent of U.S. households by 2020,” among other items.
Hello friends. As part of a new project to share my work more widely, I’ve decided to revive my old website. So, welcome to it! You’ll find a permanent link to a very small selection of clips on the left, along with a way to contact me about story ideas or other requests — and you can (and should!) subscribe to my new newsletter, no subject, if you haven’t already. (It is monthly, it is short, it features my work yet contains a lot of jokes about pop music.)
For now, here’s my latest scoop, published on Saturday: Apple won’t aid GOP convention over Trump:
Apple has told Republican leaders it will not provide funding or other support for the party’s 2016 presidential convention, as it’s done in the past, citing Donald Trump’s controversial comments about women, immigrants and minorities.
Unlike Facebook, Google and Microsoft, which have all said they will provide some support to the GOP event in Cleveland next month, Apple decided against donating technology or cash to the effort, according to two sources familiar with the iPhone maker’s plans.