In his first official, non-fundraising visit to California's Silicone Valley, President Obama met with some of America's top tech leaders -- including Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Apple's Steve Jobs and Google CEO Eric Schmidt -- mostly to discuss employment, American innovation and education. Jobs took a break from cancer treatment in order to attend.
The dinner meeting was held at the estate of Ann and John Doerr, a partner in Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, one of the world's most prominent high tech investment firms. Also on the guest list were Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, Yahoo CEO and President Carol Bartz, Cisco Systems' CEO John Chambers and Genentech Chairman and former CEO Art Levinson. Stanford University President John Hennessy was also in attendance as was former state controller and venture capitalist Steve Westly.
White House press secretary Jay Carney was also present on the president's West Coast trip. "In the president's State of the Union address, he called on us to win the future by out-innovating and out-educating the rest of the world and increasing American competitiveness," Carney said in a statement after the dinner, which lasted about two hours. "The president believes that American companies like these have been leading by investing in the creativity and ingenuity of the American people, creating cutting-edge new technologies and promoting new ways to communicate."
Getting down to brass tacks, Carney stated, "The president specifically discussed his proposals to invest in research and development and expand incentives for companies to grow and hire, along with his goal of doubling exports over five years to support millions of American jobs."
Some critics see the event as more of a pre-election fundraiser, since some of the people on the guest list are deep-pocket campaign contributors and fund major lobbying efforts. Google, for example, is the nation's third biggest spender on lobbying from the computer industry, and Oracle is the fourth largest. The combined total of campaign donations from those on the guest list adds up to almost a million, although it's reported that young billionaire Mark Zuckerberg has not contributed a cent to political campaigns.
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