WASHINGTON (AP) — Pitching himself as an ally to Silicon Valley, presidential hopeful Sen. Marco Rubio proposed giving cellphone companies more access to government-controlled airwaves as part of a package of pro-business initiatives he said would create "thousands upon thousands of high-paying jobs."
In an appearance that detailed his "grand illustration of America's potential in the 21st century," the Florida Republican also pledged to defeat any efforts to limit access to the Internet and separately proposed allowing private businesses to work with government labs to develop new products. The business-friendly message comes as Rubio looks to shift focus away from a stalled bipartisan immigration overhaul he helped to craft and as he eyes deep-pocketed potential donors.
"The world around us is changing quickly, and we have waited for far too long to change with it. We still have time to build the new American Century, but we do not have forever," Rubio said at an event organized through the Jack Kemp Foundation, a Washington think tank, and hosted at Google's Washington headquarters.
Rubio's remarks come as he is considering a White House campaign in 2016. Casting himself as friendly to Silicon Valley's tech titans could help him raise campaign donations from that industry, which so far have been elusive for Rubio.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Internet and computer industries have given Rubio and his leadership committee about $182,000 since 2009. Donations from the telecommunications industry are less enthusiastic, with just $8,500.
Rubio's top backers to this point have been retirees, investment firms and conservative groups.
Should Rubio formally enter the still-forming contest for the Republican nomination, an affinity among Silicon Valley — and its Wall Street investors — could be handy in raising the needed millions to make it through the first few states.
Rubio's political brand has taken a hit since he helped negotiate a bipartisan immigration overhaul that cleared the Senate but stalled in the House. Conservatives grew wary of the measure, and the Republican-led House signaled the comprehensive Senate plan would go nowhere.
The tech industry pushed hard for the immigration overhaul, in large part to address its need for highly skilled employees.
Rubio didn't mention immigration during his remarks but was asked about it. He remained skeptical of suggestions that immigrants who are in the country illegally could stay in the United States permanently without any pathway to citizenship.
"How do we deal with the 12 million people who are here in a way that is realistic but in a way that is also responsible?" Rubio asked. "Are you willing to have 8 or 9 million people who are here permanently but are not citizens?"
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