By Dan Rivoli
The Carolyn Maloney campaign seemed none too pleased that the Congresswoman"s primary challenger was taking credit for a proposal to ease restrictions on foreigners who want to start a company in America.
Reshma Saujani, a former hedge fund attorney, wrote an op-ed in the Huffington Post April 20 calling for a start-up visa program to allow immigrant entrepreneurs to start companies in the U.S. Maloney announced April 29 that she is introducing the StartUp Visa Act of 2010, modeled after a Feb. 24 Senate bill.
Saujani, at a recent summit on tech start-ups, noted that Maloney had introduced the bill based on her idea. Saujani"s campaign is focusing on entrepreneurship, start-ups and innovation, criticizing Maloney for doing little to bring new jobs from the tech sector into the district.
Maloney"s campaign in turn accused the political newcomer of stealing the Congresswoman"s ideas. George Arzt, a campaign spokesperson, said Maloney worked with Sen. John Kerry on the bill and wrote an April 7 letter to her colleagues about introducing the legislation in the House.
â€œCongresswoman Maloney was working on StartUp Visas with Senator Kerry long before Ms. Saujani mentioned the idea in her Huffington Post article, Arzt said. â€œWhile she continues to push this false claim, the facts are clear.
But Saujani has talked about a start-up visa proposal as far back as a Feb. 19 interview with Indian news publication DNA, and her website features a post from March 2 discussing the issue. Her campaign also points to a Dec. 2, 2009, Twitter post in which she highlights a Wall Street Journal article about start-up visas, and says she posted start-up visa information on her website in December 2009. Her Huffington Post op-ed was in response to the strict illegal immigration legislation that the Arizona Legislature had recently passed.
Sam Hamadeh, a Saujani supporter in Gramercy, hosted a fundraiser for the candidate in January where these visas were discussed.
â€œI believe that, in general, New York needs to become more of a center for entrepreneurship, that ecosystem that exists in Silicon Valley, said Hamadeh, the founder of Vault.com, a career website. â€œReshma has been speaking about this from day one of the campaign, no question. The fact [Maloney] would come out now [and] start discussing this is a little coincidental.