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Warren proposes re-establishing tech office to educate Congress

By
Danielle Haynes
Democratic candidate for president Elizabeth Warren said the office would reduce the influence of corporate lobbyists. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Democratic candidate for president Elizabeth Warren said the office would reduce the influence of corporate lobbyists. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 27 (UPI) -- Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Friday proposed re-establishing a congressional office tasked with educating federal lawmakers and staffers on complex technological issues.

The Office of Technology Assessment, she said, would eliminate lawmakers' reliance on tech companies, which spend millions of dollars lobbying Congress to benefit themselves.

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"Members of Congress should have the resources they need to make decisions without relying on corporate lobbyists," Warren's plan states.

Congress created the OTA in 1972 to assist members of Congress and committees in researching complicated scientific and technological issues, allowing lawmakers to keep up with changes in the industries. Congress -- in an effort led by then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich -- defunded the program in 1995 amid criticisms that it was too costly. In its last year, it had a $21.9 million budget and a full-time staff of 143 people.

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Warren said that under her plan she would reinstate and modernize the OTA under an independent director, increase funding for congressional support agencies to limit the influence of lobbyists and increase the salaries of congressional salaries, which she said have lagged behind increases in the private sector.

"We elect our representatives because we trust them to make decisions in our best interests - with the best information and scientific research our government has to offer," an outline of the plan states. "But today, members of Congress don't have access to the latest science and evidence, and lobbyists working for corporate clients are quick to fill this vacuum and bend the ears of members of Congress to advance their own narrow interests."

Warren said the OTA could help educate lawmakers on climate change issues and avoid confusion such as last year, when then-Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, asked Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg how the social media company made money when the service is free.

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"Even Senators well-versed in social media struggled to ask about difficult concepts like end-to-end encryption, location tracking and the competitive landscape of Silicon Valley," she said.

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