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Microsoft's Money and the 2004 Election

According to the Center for Responsive Politics the Microsoft Corporation, it's Political Action Committee (PAC), and its employees contributed more than $2.4 million to federal political candidates and parties by September 13 for the 2004 election cycle. The next largest contribution by any company in the computer industry is only $774,794 by Cisco Systems.

Far surpassing its contributions are Microsoft's lobbying expenses: $8.7 million in 2003. That's 34% higher than the prior year. "Many of the contacts involved influencing government procurement in the software industry, sort of a government sales call. Company lobbyists also approached the government repeatedly about visa regulations for foreign workers, tax issues and rules governing the WiFi spectrum... Outside observers say Microsoft is sophisticated at other types of influence that do not require reporting, such as sponsoring policy forums, contributing to key political figures' pet charities, supporting like-minded think tanks and attempting to ignite grassroots support... Microsoft donated nearly $1 million in software and technical support services to both the Democratic and Republican conventions this year." (Bekker, Scott. "Following Microsoft's Money." Oct 2004)

With so much more money spent than any competitors Microsoft's voice is obviously the loudest. Just as any other company they speak up about issues such as taxes and regulations. But they also have objectives beyond those of most other companies. One objective of Microsoft is to ratain its largest customer, the U.S. government. Another might be to retain a positive image in case the Department of Justice, under a different administration, considers starting another attack against the monopolist. This already worked in Europe when members of the U.S. Congress spoke up in defense of Microsoft against the European Commission's $613 million fine. Beyond lobbying in support of its industry as a whole, Microsoft works hard to influence the government in any way supportive of its anti-competitive tactics and dominant market position.
Copyright © 2004-2007 Matthew Schwartz