Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles lobbying for deficit reduction in Washington, D.C.

When I read the fascinating New York Times story, reprinted in today’s Mercury News, on bipartisan debt-busters Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, I was reminded that each has important ties to Silicon Valley.

Bowles, a Democrat and former chief of staff to President Clinton, sits on the Facebook board. In naming him to the job last year, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Bowles would help the company “navigate complex issues” – like, let’s say, government crackdowns on Internet privacy. For his trouble, Bowles was granted 20,000 units of the company’s restricted stock, worth some $600,000 at the time (according to the company’s S-1 filing). But with Facebook currently trading below $30, my math suggests they’re underwater.

As for Simpson, a former U.S. Senator from Wyoming, his ties to the valley are more personal – and touching. Back in 1943, when Simpson was a 12-year-old Boy Scout, his scoutmaster took the troop to a Jamboree with other scouts who were locked up at the Japanese-American internment camp at Heart Mountain, Wyoming. Among those scouts was future San Jose Mayor and Congressman Norm Mineta, and the two forged a friendship that lasted through their parallel careers in Congress and beyond.

Mineta and Simpson at the 2008 unveiling of plans for a learning center at the Heart Mountain site.
CREDIT: Jay Premack/Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation

The two worked together to get the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 passed, providing cash reparations for thousands of Japanese-Americans interned during World War II, and they’ve since worked to preserve the Heart Mountain barracks as a warning to future generations.


Peter Delevett Peter Delevett (184 Posts)

Peter Delevett covers startups and venture capital for the San Jose Mercury News. He's been a journalist in Silicon Valley since the dot-com daze.