Sen. John F. Kerry on Thursday began two days of intense fundraising and campaigning on the West Coast and in the Midwest by promoting his plans for reviving the troubled high-tech industry and picking up the endorsement of corporate icon Lee Iacocca.
The Democratic presidential candidate chose the economically troubled Silicon Valley, the heart of the nation's high-tech community, to propose a detailed plan to revitalize the industry through tax incentives for small-business investment, extending a research-and-development credit to encourage innovation, and accelerating the development of universal high-speed Internet access. He said his proposals would boost the economy by $500 billion and create 1.2 million jobs.
"This technological revolution is the foundation of a 21st-century economy. But it's up to us to build on that foundation so that we can create and expand 21st-century jobs," Kerry told an audience of mostly students at San Jose State University. "We won't get very far with a government that wants to stifle or ignore the creativity and entrepreneurship that will produce the next big idea. We need to encourage it and invest in it."
Meanwhile, President Bush highlighted his own proposals for encouraging development of new technologies and spreading high-speed Internet access during an appearance at the Commerce Department, where he took part in demonstrations of broadband and wireless technologies.
"What we're interested in is to make sure broadband technology is available in every corner of America by the year 2007," Bush said. He said that could happen by keeping the Internet free of access taxes, and by developing Internet technologies over power lines and wireless systems.
But Kerry said the country has fallen from fourth to 10th in the world in terms of broadband adoption. He proposed a series of tax credits for implementation in rural areas and inner cities, at a cost of $2 billion. Both men also support putting more airwaves, known as spectrum, in the hands of the private sector for development. Kerry also said some swaths should go unlicensed, for public use.
In his remarks in San Jose, Kerry called for a national strategy to drive more broadband in rural and other underserved areas, including expanding a federal technology program for inner cities that he said the Bush administration has been phasing out.
Kerry campaign aides reveled in the endorsement of Iacocca, the former Chrysler Corp. chairman who in 2000 endorsed and appeared in ads for Bush.
"This is a huge for us politically in terms of how business leaders perceive the parties," Kerry policy director Sarah Bianchi said. "He wants to be an active part of our campaign."
Bush-Cheney campaign manager Ken Mehlman argued that the endorsement would not sway anyone. "I think the American people ultimately make up their own minds based on their reading and looking at the two candidates," he said. "It's up to each business leader to speak for him- or herself."
Kerry's most important event of the day was a $5 million concert in Los Angeles headlined by Barbra Streisand. The event had initially been scheduled for two weeks ago but was canceled because of former president Ronald Reagan's death. Willie Nelson, Neil Diamond, Billy Crystal, Robert De Niro and Ben Affleck were also scheduled to appear on stage. A similar event scheduled for July 8 in New York is also expected to bring in $5 million.
After the concert, Kerry was scheduled to fly through the night to Ohio, where he is to hold two morning events with workers. From there he plans to head to New York for a fundraiser with Howard Dean.
Also Thursday, a conservative group began its first television ad that shows Bush shaking hands with firefighters amid the World Trade Center wreckage and poses the question "Could John Kerry have shown this leadership?" the Associated Press reported.
The Progress for America Voter Fund said it will spend $1 million over three weeks to run the commercial -- and another to be aired after July 4 -- in the swing states of Nevada and New Mexico.
The organization said the ads are the first step in a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign to counter the pro-Democratic groups that have spent more than $40 million on ads criticizing Bush.
Krim reported from Washington.