- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 8, 2018


Rep. John Delaney, founder of the A.I. Caucus, wrote earlier this year of the need for Congress to get serious about artificial intelligence and take “proactive” steps to ensure this fast-moving industry is “good for working people, good for businesses and good for our economy,” he said.

He might have added that A.I. is good for lawmakers looking for the next lucrative investment, too.

Delaney, a Democrat, co-founded the bipartisan A.I. Caucus in May of 2017 with Republican Rep. Pete Olson to examine the “potential economic, social and ethical implications of artificial intelligence.” Shortly after, Democrat Reps. Jared Polis, Derek Kilmer, Anna Eshoo, Andre Carson, and Debbie Dingell joined the group.

The social welfare mission of the A.I. Caucus sounds worthwhile, at least on surface. But the lawmaking powers of its members mean they’re also well-positioned to push policy that fills their own pockets.

So do their campaign finance records.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics’ OpenSecrets.org site: Polis received a total of $73,250 from the Foundry Group between 2007 and 2018, with $10,800 coming between 2017-2018 alone; and $5,400 from the Secure World Foundation and $2,700 from Alphabet Inc. in the 2017-2018 cycle. The Foundry Group is a venture capital firm that makes investments in technology, and was recently listed by CB Insights as an investor in the AI-fueled travel app Pana and as a backer of the AI-powered music writing startup, Amper.

Secure World Foundation, meanwhile, is a nonprofit dedicated to regulating outer space in order to ensure its sustainability for future generations — a group that is only likely to grow in influence as the global race for AI dominance, satellite control and technology expands and heats.

And Alphabet? Alphabet’s the parent company of Google, a leading player in the quest for AI creation.

Kilmer, meanwhile, received between 2017 and 2018 a total of $19,200 from Microsoft and $10,500 from Boeing — two companies that sent representatives to the National Business Aviation Association in Las Vegas in October 2017 to outline their respective artificial intelligence pursuits, and two companies that continue to be major players in the AI development game.

Dingell received $15,200 from Boeing as well, during the 2017-2018 campaign cycle.

Delaney has announced he’s running for president in 2020 and therefore, won’t be affiliated with the AI Caucus much longer. But his career rack of $70,600 from JPMorgan Chase & Co., received between 2011 and 2018, is notable. JPMorgan is a growing player in the A.I. world.

JPMorgan takes AI use to the next level,” blasted on Business Insider headline in August 2017.

JPMorgan Taps AI Startup to Help Traders Predict Market Moves,” blared a Bloomberg one a couple months later.

Delaney’s also been a leading voice behind the Future of A.I. Act and its call to create a 19-member advisory committee within the Department of Commerce – one surefire step toward putting the feds at the helm of steering the direction of technology development. Is this a fox in charge of a henhouse?

Sen. Maria Cantwell, the key Democratic sponsor of this bill, has received a career total of $388,689 in donations from Microsoft and $147,809 from Boeing between 1991 and 2018.

Something to think about.

Scientists, researchers, government folk, private company officials, ethics and privacy watchdogs, and other interested pertinent parties have been debating for years the pros and cons of policy-makers shaping A.I. rules and of politicians taking the regulatory reins in this ever-changing technology world.

But before jumping on the regulatory bandwagon, it’s a good idea to know who stands to gain. Not all the watchdogs who say they’re in it for the little people come conflict-of-interest free.

Cheryl Chumley can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter, @ckchumley.

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