Lobbyists Hug High-Tech Hub

Then-Sen. Bill Frist's sale of stock in a hospital company isn't relevant to the Senate ethics panel because he's no longer a senator.
Then-Sen. Bill Frist's sale of stock in a hospital company isn't relevant to the Senate ethics panel because he's no longer a senator. (By Chip Somodevilla -- Getty Images)
Tuesday, February 5, 2008; Page A17

When tech experts Josh Ackil and Matt Tanielian were looking to name their new lobbying firm, they had little hesitation. They decided to call themselves the Franklin Square Group -- even though their offices aren't on Franklin Square.

The reason is simple: The square -- which is bounded by 13th, 14th, K and I streets NW -- boasts the capital's highest concentration of tech lobbying offices.

One industry wag has dubbed it Silicon Square as a result.

The large office buildings around the tree-heavy park contain a who's who of the tech world. Residents include Microsoft, Dell, Sun Microsystems, eBay and IBM. Just a block away are Hewlett-Packard, Kodak, Oracle, Sony and, in brand new offices, Apple and Google.

One reason for the clustering is the proximity of the industry's chief lobbying arm, the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI). Company reps can easily walk there for their frequent, high-tech powwows.

"With the tech companies working together on so many shared priorities, being close to each other enables them to better communicate and cooperate," said Ralph Hellmann, the council's chief lobbyist.

Geographic proximity does not always bring harmony. Microsoft's unsolicited takeover offer for Yahoo last week stepped up the conflict between the huge software maker and its neighbor, Google. Microsoft wants to acquire Yahoo so it can better compete with Google for online search and advertising dollars.

At least in the District, they can be friendly enemies. Microsoft's Ginny Terzano calls Franklin Square "a collegial neighborhood where it's common to run into someone while grabbing lunch, catching a cab."

Then again, why would advocates for cyberspace care so much about meeting in person anyway? Doesn't that go against the premise of their businesses?

The lobbyists say no. Just because the Web is important to their work, it doesn't mean they no longer have to live by the laws of lobbying, they say. Personal contact remains paramount on K Street, no matter what industry is involved.

Besides, some of the co-locating is largely coincidental. Google, for instance, moved nearby because it happened to find an all-glass, certified "green" building in which it could take an entire floor -- a space large enough to accommodate its rapidly expanding staff, spokesman Adam Kovacevich said. He also said it doesn't hurt to have so many tech colleagues around the corner.

Ackil and Tanielian are currently in temporary space several blocks away on I Street. They both once worked at ITI and expect someday to return to Franklin Square.

CONTINUED     1           >

© 2008 The Washington Post Company