Microsoft:Influence / Lobbying
- Of course I have as much power as the president has - Bill Gates 71
Being such a wealthy company it would be surprising if Microsoft didn't attempt to subvert democracy. It does, of course. James Love, with the technology watchdog group the Centre for Public Technology, said Microsoft's efforts are "an aggressive attempt to change government". Just as Microsoft perceived Netscape as a threat, "that is pretty much how they approach the government, as a threat," Mr Love said72.
The increased lobbying efforts and campaign contributions are only part of a multi-pronged strategy Microsoft has to deal with this perceived threat from the government. They have established phoney grass-roots groups, hired people to write opinion pieces for newspapers and magazines, pose as ordinary citizens in various Internet chat rooms, sponsored polls to make it appear they have a grounswell of support and have enlisted their stockholders and business partners to lobby for them.
Microsoft's most recent cause for lobbying is to convince governments to think again about adopting open-source software. The Initiative for Software Choice, which launched quietly in May 2002 is chaired by an industry body called the Computer Technology Industry Association (CompTIA). Its biggest software industry backer is Microsoft. While Software Choice's principles rarely mention open-source initiatives directly, they include a provision that governments should promote a `broad availability' of the results of publicly funded research by making sure these results are kept clear of such open-source licenses as the GNU General Public License (GPL), used by Linux73.
Another of Microsoft's lackey's are the Association for Competetive Technology. A spinoff from this was the Americans for Technology Leadership which was responsible for Microsoft's ill-fated letter-writing exercise. Eyebrows were raised when letters purportedly written by at least two dead people landed on the desk of Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff imploring him to go easy on Microsoft for its conduct as a monopoly.Three others use exactly these words: "If the future is going to be as successful as the recent past, the technology sector must remain free from excess regulation74." The letter-writing exercise was part of a larger Microsoft plan to sway Congress and encourage prosecutors to pursue a settlement in advance of a court hearing on how the Redmond company should be punished for illegally maintaining its monopoly on computer operating systems. At the same time the company stepped up campaign donations, becoming the fifth-largest "soft-money" donor to the national Republican and Democratic parties in 1999-2000. It has consistently been the top contributor among computer companies Microsoft's presence in Washington began small, with a staff of one in 1995. By 2000 it was ten.
It nearly doubled its lobbying budget from 1997 to 1998 - to $3.74m - according to the company's lobbying disclosure documents.
Part of its efforts were spent lobbying to defeat a budget increase for the Justice Department's anti-trust division, the department responsible for bringing the case against the company. It has also lobbied Congress for tax relief, for stronger intellectual property protection and for a greater number of visas for foreign high-tech workers75.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation overtook the London-based Wellcome Foundation several years ago as the world's biggest charitable foundation. It has already spent more than £1.9bn of its £14bn assets on health projects in developing countries.76 All of which have proved great PR. In one week alone, five articles (one of which Gates wrote himself) appeared in the New York Times glorifying his genorosity77. Or how about when, during the government’s high-profile antitrust suit, Gates began adding to the foundation in huge ($5 billion) increments as the government prosecution took its damaging course78? The Gates' promise to spend $100 million of their personal fortune on health initiatives over the next ten years is put into perspective when the amount spent on other menaces to society are considered. For instance, over the next three years, $421 million of Microsoft's money will be used in eradicating the evil Linux79. Is Linux really four times worse than AIDS?
Two-hundred million dollars of this was used to establish the Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative. The initiative is based on the appointment of a scientific board which “will identify and publish a focused set of critical problems, or 'grand challenges', in global health."80
Last year Dr. Florence Wambugu was appointed to the scientific board. Wambugu is best known as the “apostle of Monsanto in Africa81.” She is two-times Monsanto Company Outstanding Performance Award winner, author and publisher of the book “Modifying Africa”, Chief Executive Director of A Harvest Biotech Foundation International and a DuPont Biotech Advisory Panelist.
She came to fame via Monsanto's virus-resistant sweet potato project in Kenya. The project was resolutely claimed as a success despite being completely outclassed by conventional breeding and better ecological management.82
And if the Gates' acceptance of GM as the solution to world hunger wasn't blatant enough, the Foundation also donated $25 million to aid misplaced research into the 'biofortification' programme – supposedly to end nutrient deficiency in poor countries but which, in reality, is aimed at restoring the credibility of the biotechnology industry.
One such example is the much-hyped 'Golden Rice' which contains a miniscule addition of beta-carotene. Scientists, including Dr M S Swaminathan, father of India's green revolution, and Dr Robert Cantrell, director general of the IRRI, have already gone on record saying that golden rice cannot address the problem of Vitamin A deficiency.83 Indeed, the whole biofortification project is doomed as the adequate amounts of fats that are required to absorb the nutrients are conspicuously absent in malnourished populations.84
In 2008, Microsoft is reported to provide sponsorship to the Center for Global Development. In 2008, Microsoft is listed as a member of the American Benefits Council and as a client of The Gorlin Group.
PR & Lobbying Firms/groups
Auditors: Deloitte & Touche LLP
PR and lobbying operatives
- Nicola Taylor (London)
- Centre for Global Development Funders Accessed 22nd January 2008
- American Benefits Council Memberships Accessed 26th February 2008
- The Gorlin Group Clients Accessed 20th March 2008
- FischerAppelt Kommunikation Current & former clients Accessed 14th February 2008
- 'Microsoft Critics Assigned PR "Spooks",' 27.03.99. http://www.vcnet.com/bms/departments/dirtytricks.shtml Viewed: 07.11.03
71'The Truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth,' John Heilemann, Wired Magazine, 01.11.00. 72'Microsoft lobbying campaign backfires; even dead people write in support of firm,' Joseph Menn & Edmund Sanders, 01.11.02. See: www.xenoclast.org/free-sklyarov-uk/2002-November/003594.html+microsoft+lobby+groups&hl=en&ie=UTF-8." class="url" target="_blank">http://188.8.131.52/search?q=cache:csAHPSn-v6wJ:www.xenoclast.org/free-sklyarov-uk/2002-November/003594.html+microsoft+lobby+groups&hl=en&ie=UTF-8. Viewed: 03.12.03 73'Microsoft to lobby US government,' Matthew Broersma, 08.15.02. See: http://bioinformatics.org/forums/forum.php?forum_id=1149. Viewed: 03.12.03 74'Microsoft lobbying campaign backfires; even dead people write in support of firm,' Joseph Menn & Edmund Sanders, 01.11.02. See: www.xenoclast.org/free-sklyarov-uk/2002-November/003594.html+microsoft+lobby+groups&hl=en&ie=UTF-8." class="url" target="_blank">http://184.108.40.206/search?q=cache:csAHPSn-v6wJ:www.xenoclast.org/free-sklyarov-uk/2002-November/003594.html+microsoft+lobby+groups&hl=en&ie=UTF-8. Viewed: 03.12.03 75'Lobbying efforts stepped up,' Kevin Anderson, 14.02.00. See: http://220.127.116.11/search?q=cache:WDeTckrtbckJ:news.bbc.co.uk/1/low/in_depth/business/ 2000/microsoft/638300.stm+microsoft+lobby+groups&hl=en&ie=UTF-8. Viewed: 11.12.03 76'Saint Bill,' The Guardian, 25.09.03 77'Gates gives $100m to fight HIV, $421m to fight Linux,' Thomas C Greene, 13.11.02. See: www.theregister.co.uk/content/archive/28063.html. Viewed: 01.12.03 78'Bill Gates’s Money,' Jean Strouse, 16.04.00, New York Times. See: http://www3.sympatico.ca/truegrowth/gates1.html. Viewed: 10.12.03 79'Gates gives $100m to fight HIV, $421m to fight Linux,' Thomas C Greene, 13.11.02. See: www.theregister.co.uk/content/archive/28063.html. Viewed: 01.12.03 80Press Release, A Harvest Biotech Foundation International, June 2003. See: www.ahbfi.org Viewed: 04.11.03 81'Gates gets Wambugu-ed/ Golden Rice gets Gates boost,' GM Watch, 15.10.03. See: www.gmwatch.org/archive.asp Viewed: 04.11.03 82'Gates gets Wambugu-ed/ Golden Rice gets Gates boost,' GM Watch, 15.10.03. See: www.gmwatch.org/archive.asp Viewed: 04.11.03 83'Bill Gates recue package - flogging a dead horse.' Devinder Sharma, 20.10.03, Diverse Women For Diversity. 84'Bill Gates recue package - flogging a dead horse.' Devinder Sharma, 20.10.03, Diverse Women For Diversity.