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Veepstakes: A Look at Rob Portman

We continue our look at the people reported to be on Governor Mitt Romney’s shortlist for a running mate, and where those women and men stand on job-creating issues that matter to the tech community.  Today, we focus on Rob Portman, the junior U.S. Senator from Ohio, and former United States Trade Representative (USTR) and Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under President George W. Bush.  

U.S. Senator Rob PortmanSenator Portman was born and raised in Ohio, the son of an entrepreneur who started a forklift dealership in Cincinnati.  Senator Portman has been in public service since the late 1980s, when he worked as an Associate White House Counsel under President George H.W. Bush.  In 1993, Senator Portman ran in and won a special election to fill a vacant U.S. House seat in Ohio’s Second Congressional District, and was re-elected six times before President George W. Bush tapped him for the USTR post in 2005.  In 2010, Mr. Portman was elected to the U.S. Senate.

The tech community has advocated for a reduction in the corporate tax rate and a transition from an outdated global tax structure to a competitive territorial tax system.  Senator Portman echoed these sentiments last November, when he spoke of his support for “pro-growth, corporate tax reform that’s deficit-neutral, that lowers rates to 25 percent and moves to a territorial system.”  In addition to his support for comprehensive tax reform, Senator Portman also has consistently voted to extend the research and development tax credit.

On the issue of high-skilled immigration, Senator Portman, in 1998, voted in favor of legislation that provided for a temporary increase in non-immigrant visas for skilled workers -- a key issue for the tech industry then and now.

Senator Portman enthusiastically supported technological innovations to increase domestic energy security and employment.  He stated, “We should support technological advances and incentives that will lead us to next-generation sources of cleaner, domestic energy, while adding jobs.”  In 2011, along with Senator Shaheen (D-N.H.), he introduced the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness (ESIC) Act, which aims to incentivize the use of energy efficiency technologies in the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors of our economy.

Senator Portman has a solid track record as a supporter of free trade.  In his early days in Congress, the Clinton Administration relied on him to encourage fellow Members of Congress to support the North American Free Trade Agreement and the 1994 General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.  He subsequently voted to normalize trade relations with China, and in favor of free trade agreements with Chile, Singapore, and Australia.  

As United States Trade Representative from May 2005 until May 2006, Portman pressured China to stop the theft of U.S. intellectual property, and oversaw passage of free trade agreements with Central America and Bahrain.  In a September 2011 interview, he emphasized the importance of access to foreign markets for the tech industry, commenting, “We are behind other countries on exports, but one place where we can do a lot more is technology. We have a competitive advantage and we need to find a way to reduce barriers to innovation and technology and this is why trade agreements are so important.”

Check out the full Veepstakes series: