CLBR #219: Evan Engstrom on Engine’s Presidential Candidate Scorecard

CLBR #219: Evan Engstrom on Engine’s Presidential Candidate Scorecard

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Engine returns to CLBR to discuss its Presidential Candidate Scorecard.  Engine is a research foundation and advocacy group that supports the growth of technology entrepreneurship through economic research, policy analysis, and advocacy on local and national issues.  In 2013, Michael McGeary joined us to discuss Engine’s Startup Day on Capitol Hill.

Today Engine’s Executive Director Evan Engstrom join us.  As Executive Director and formerly, Engine’s first Policy Director, Evan develops Engine’s positions on the key policy issues facing startups and the tech community and manages the organization’s daily operations.

In releasing the scorecard, Engstrom stressed:

Given the importance of innovation and entrepreneurship to our national economy, it is hugely important that the presidential candidates address some of the most pressing issues facing American startups and tech companies.  The answers to these issues are not easy, and they will require a nuanced, thoughtful approach. But the results of this report card highlight the lack of understanding and attention being paid to these issues in the 2016 election cycle. There is an opportunity here for candidates to go on the record and champion policies that will help startups grow and thrive.


  and @evanmengstrom


The Issues

Privacy & Security

  • Encryption: Does the candidate recognize the importance of strong encryption? Privacy and Surveillance:
  • Does the candidate support reforming and modernizing digital privacy and government surveillance laws?

Democrats led in this category, with both Clinton and Sanders expressing support for NSA reform and a relatively nuanced approach in the encryption debate. Trump, Kasich, and Cruz were given the lowest grades on encryption due to statements that show little understanding of what encryption is and its role in protecting user safety and security.

Intellectual Property

  • Patent Reform: Does the candidate support reform to weaken patent trolls and improve patent quality?

Clinton, Kasich, and Trump received an incomplete in this category for not having made any statements (or taken any votes) on patent reform. Cruz received the lowest grade, as one of only four Judiciary Committee members who voted against a comprehensive patent reform bill in 201 5 that would have combatted the patent troll problem. Rubio and Sanders received a B grade for their support of the America Invents Act, a bill that represented an important, if not incomplete, first step to cleaning up a broken patent

Education, Talent and the Workforce

  • Education and Workforce Development: Does the candidate support expanding STEM education and tech-oriented workforce training?
  • The On-Demand and Gig Economy: Does the candidate recognize the emergence of the on-demand economy and show a thoughtful approach to supporting this new class of workers?
  • High-skilled Immigration Reform: Does the candidate support expanding opportunities for global technical talent and entrepreneurs to work in U.S.?

Sanders earned one of the lowest grades for his overall opposition to the U.S. attracting and retaining global talent through immigration policies and while he hasn’t said much about the sharing or on-demand economy overall, he did state he has “serious problems” with Uber. Trump also received a low grade in this category. He’s been mostly silent on education and the changing labor force and he’s said virtually nothing positive about immigrants. While Trump did recently concede he may be changing his position about high-skilled visas, his staff later clarified that Trump believes that the H-1 B program “is neither high-skilled nor immigration.”

Broadband Access & Infrastructure

  • Open Internet: Does the candidate support net neutrality?
  • Access: Does the candidate support policy and investments to expand and improve Internet connectivity (e.g. spectrum policy, municipal broadband, infrastructure improvements)?

Clinton and Sanders received the highest grades in this category thanks to their unwavering support of net neutrality and efforts to expand broadband access. The Republican candidates did not fare so well. Cruz  and Trump oppose net neutrality (with Cruz going so far as to call it “Obamacare for the Internet”). Cruz’s opposition to municipal broadband brought their grades down in the access category. While Kasich’s role as Ohio governor has kept him out of the net neutrality debate, he has launched programs in his state to build and expand advanced fiber networks to promote research and entrepreneurship.


More About Evan

Prior to joining Engine, Evan was an attorney at Farella Braun + Martel in San Francisco, focusing on copyright and other intellectual property litigation matters. At Farella, Evan litigated several high-profile Digital Millennium Copyright Act cases, defending websites and ISPs against claims for secondary copyright liability, and was named a “Rising Star” by Super Lawyers magazine. Evan is a graduate of Harvard Law School and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. When not analyzing policy white papers, Evan enjoys working on his rapidly declining basketball skills and collecting synthesizers.