TAMPA, Fla. — Walk through the Republican National Convention and it might start to feel as much like a technology trade show as political nominating party, thanks to the branding and lobbying efforts of dozens of tech companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter and AT&T.
Google wants attendees to sip free lattes in a huge, colorfully designed rec room. Facebook invites attendees to snap pictures at photo booths that post the image direct to a user’s wall. Twitter’s giving out T-shirts. And AT&T’s logo is on RNC signage throughout downtown Tampa, the perk of being the event’s “official wireless carrier.”
The oversized show of force is a big change for many tech companies — from Apple to Yelp — that didn’t used to pay much heed to politics or Washington D.C. Now they spend big to fete lawmakers and send representatives to work the rooms as other industries long have.
“You have companies spending more time dealing with regulation, dealing with Congress, dealing with the administration, and realizing they need a voice,” said Rey Ramsey, president and CEO of TechNet. “Our power is directly commensurate with the awareness that the tech industry is so vital to the United States economy.”
It helps, of course, that tech is a rare bright spot in an otherwise shaky economy. Being present allows politicians to bask in the reflected glow of tech’s record on job creation and innovation, something they’re pleased to take credit for however unwarranted. From sponsoring elaborate parties with free-flowing food and wine to hawking their wares on the political elite, the industry came to play — and, in some cases, pay, as sponsorships can cost up to millions of dollars in goods and services.
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