This story was written by Keith Dawson for the Industry Standard's Media Grok email newsletter. It is archived here for informational purposes only because The Standard's site is no more. This material is Copyright 1999-2001 by Standard Media.

Microsoft's Lobbying Paying Off?
May 17 2000 12:00 AM PDT

Microsoft is spending millions of lobbying dollars to improve its public image. This unremarkable fact was the taking-off point for the Washington Post's James V. Grimaldi, who in a page-one muckrake traced the often shadowy trail of money from Microsoft to political results. (The San Jose Mercury News ran an abbreviated version of the Post story.)

Grimaldi enumerated Microsoft's donations to political parties, think tanks, foundations and tax-exempt trade groups, and these groups' actions on behalf of Microsoft's causes. More controversially, Grimaldi sketched links between donations of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and favorable political opinion within the Congressional Black Caucus. Grimaldi ran quotes from the director of the United Negro College Fund, a recent recipient of Gates Foundation largesse, who lambasted the idea that such donations were tied to any political agenda. Grimaldi offered no other sources or evidence to back up this simmering suggestion.

For balance, Grimaldi quoted American University political science professor James Thurber on the recent uptick in Microsoft's lobbying spending: "This shows the maturation of Microsoft and Bill Gates in Washington. It surprises me it took this long." But Grimaldi closed his piece with an opinion from former appeals court judge and Netscape consultant Robert Bork. As Grimaldi paraphrased Judge Bork, the "myriad links between Microsoft money and think-tank scholars has reached an unprecedented level."

A group of high-powered academic economists has filed a "friend of the court" brief outlining their preferred remedy: splitting Microsoft into four pieces instead of two. Judge Jackson had not asked for this brief but has decided to accept it. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer ran Dan Richman's analysis of this proposal. Unsurprisingly, Richman found another economist who disagreed strongly with it.

Both The Wall Street Journal and ZDNet's Internet Week noted that one of the trade groups largely funded by Microsoft, the Association for Competitive Technology, plans to file another brief asking Judge Jackson for permission to testify before he decides on a remedy in the Microsoft trial. No word on whether or not the judge will accept this one. - Keith Dawson

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