From Two Tech Lobbying Firms, One Dynamo

Monday, September 15, 2008

Just about every industry has a trade association pushing its policy agenda in Washington. In the technology industry's case, the number of trade groups reaches well into the double digits, making it difficult for any one organization to gain political clout.

Last week, two large associations said they were discussing joining forces, potentially creating a new tech lobbying powerhouse in town.

District-based AeA, formerly known as the American Electronics Association, and Arlington-based Information Technology Association of America, or ITAA, are planning to merge memberships and programs. The AeA spent $2 million lobbying the federal government last year, while the ITAA spent $240,000. The combined group, whose members would include Google, Microsoft, Apple and Intel, is aiming to become the premier technology association, creating a single point of contact for Hill staffers, companies and other lobbyists.

"With a new administration and Congress on the horizon in Washington, it's critical for the industry to present a united front," ITAA chairman Hank Steininger said.

Still, the combined association, which would have more than 2,000 members, is far from being the only tech group in town. The Consumer Electronics Association, based in Arlington, has 2,200 members and has increased its presence on the Hill in recent years. There's also Arlington-based Electronic Industries Alliance and District-based Information Technology Industry Council. Not to mention CTIA of the District, which represents the wireless industry, and a slew of other alliances formed for specific issues.

AeA represents the high-tech industry, including software, telecom and semiconductor companies, and lobbies governments at the state, federal and international levels. ITAA represents information technology and electronics companies. Earlier this year, it merged with the Government Electronics and Information Technology Association after combining with the Cyber Security Industry Alliance. Public policy advocacy is one of its areas of expertise, and it represents a wide variety of Internet, software and hardware companies.

Discussions of the merger are ongoing, so no decisions have been made on a name for the new group. But there may be a new acronym for your BlackBerry's address book.

-- Kim Hart

© 2008 The Washington Post Company