Tuesdays with T4A: John Frank (11/26/13)

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John Frank
VP and Deputy General Counsel | Microsoft
John  is Vice President and Deputy General Counsel at Microsoft, and reports to Brad Smith, General Counsel. In his role, John serves as Chief of Staff and manages the Office of Legal Compliance and the Office of Strategic Relations, and devotes substantial time to international competition law and policy issues. Prior to joining Microsoft, John practiced law in San Francisco with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom (1988-1994) where he specialized in securities law, mergers and acquisitions, and cross-border investments, and with Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe (1985 – 1997). John lives in Bellevue, Washington with his wife Delia Jampel; they have three children.

Where did you grow up, and what do you remember most about it?
My high school years were spent in Cerritos California and Caldwell Idaho. Quite a contrast!
What was your first job?
Picking fruit at the Symms Fruit Ranch in Sunnyslope Idaho. My co-workers were migrant farm workers, working early and hard to make minimum wage.
What is your first political memory?
In college I interned for Idaho Governor John Evans, who I first met at Boys State, and then took a year off from college to work on his successful re-election campaign.
You spent six years living in France as the Associate General Counsel for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa for Microsoft. What was it like representing an American company abroad? Any interesting cultural differences that stick out to from your time there? Parlez-vous français?

Working in a European headquarters for an American company enabled me to learn the diverse business cultures of Europe – the Italian issues tended to be operas in three acts, the German issues got resolved on time, and the Nordic issues were resolved calmly without drama. And I made great friends in each country. Along the way, I spent way too much time in Brussels as they developed the regulatory framework for online activity, and built the credibility of their competition law regime on the backs of US targets.

I am a huge Francophile, but my language skills are “moyen.” I am writing a book on a French painter, and so I spend more time reading French than speaking it.

Another question about location: As far as I know, you are one of only a couple board members who has spent significant time in both San Francisco and Seattle, our two chapter locations. What would you say are the most similar and most dissimilar characteristics of our two beautiful cities?
Both cities have great energy, diversity and  vitality, and both have beautiful settings. San Francisco has sunshine, except in the summer fog months, and Seattle has rain except in the wonderful summer month(s).
Who are your role models and why?
I have huge respect for Stu Eizenstat who has had a great career in public service and as a lawyer. When he was Ambassador to the EU, we gave him his first briefing on the WWW, and I have had the opportunity to work with him on several issues over the years.
As you look at your community, city/state/country, how do you view your role/responsibility as a citizen? Within that context, how do you view your role as citizen in relation to our Government and Democracy?
Got any easy questions? I want government to work. I believe through government and political engagement, we can do many things to build a better common future. I care deeply about quality education especially for children without the means for private education. I also think we can contribute to building a better community through cultural institutions, and I very much enjoy my role as Chairman of the Seattle Art Museum board of trustees.
Just about everyone (regardless of political affiliation) sees a large gap between our politics (Washington, DC as well as state capitals) and the reality on the issues we face as a Country. Why do you think that is? I know it's a tough question, but what do you think can be done to close that gap?
It’s somewhat trite to blame the rules of the game, but I  think that districting decisions matter a great deal. We would benefit from some serious academic work on districting rules that would provide the basis for reform, whether legislative (which is working in some states) or judicial (which in the long run may be the only way to get the whole country). I suspect there is appetite for reform, but we need to have good solutions with a solid intellectual foundation before the courts will step up.
Are political parties becoming less relevant today, particularly for young adults? Whatever your answer, why do you think that is?
I suspect that political parties are less relevant for everyone today, including politicians. Campaigns tend to be funded without as much party support, and elected officials are less dependent on party organizations. As we have all observed recently, being a Republican member of the House does not seem to predict support for the initiatives of the party leadership. But the parties help voters young and old affiliate with others who share their values, and so they will endure as a valuable identifier.
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