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Microsoft's Political Lobbying Record 330

Posted by timothy
from the gotta-spend-it-somewhere dept.
pierreduFwench writes "With the U.S. national elections just around the corner, you may find this interesting: Opensecrets.org, a website focusing on 'Responsive Politics' recently published lobbying and donations info for the 2002 elections (to date). You can see the breakdown of Microsoft's individual dossier here. Also, looking at the 'Top Donations by Industry', you may notice that Microsoft is, conspicuously, the only entry under 'Computers/Internet.'" Very interesting graphs.
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Microsoft's Political Lobbying Record

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  • by drDugan (219551) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @02:43PM (#4542710) Homepage
    what more evidence do people need?

    huge organizations designed to aggregate money with all the rights and abilities as citizens. how can the interests of individuals even come close to being recognized in an arena like that?

    they can't.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I have to disagree. They are not abusing power nor infringing on the rights of individual citizens. The graphs show huge amounts of money flowing to both parties. Now I would be more worried if almost all the money went to Republicans (as the trend is slowly turning), but regardless it is within their rights to promote their interests. It is neither immoral nor illegal. If you, specifically, were a major player in an industry and controlled billions of dollars, I would hope that you promoted your own interests. It's capitalism, no more, no less.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        "The graphs show huge amounts of money flowing to both parties."

        Last time I checked, democracts and republicans were the same party. All that says is that they are both corporate whores.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        "They are not abusing power nor infringing on the rights of individual citizens"

        Don't stay up on current events, eh?

        "It's capitalism, no more, no less"

        Umm no its not. Get a clue.
      • I agree it is within their (a company) rights to promote their interests. The point is that a huge group of people, organized to aggregate cash -- in a world where money = = interests -- these groups can push their interests so much more effectively than any individuals, even well organized individuals. I am not saying it is immoral or illegal. (put another way... a bit of cash for each sale of windows goes toward greasing wheels in politics to, say... keep the monopoly together.) It's just that the interests of individuals and the interests of corporations are typically not aligned completely. the current system puts these different interests in direct competition, and because of the disparity in dollars, the corporate interests almost always win out. the vague notion that our elected officials are in place to make life better for the people is the only reason corporate interests don't win out entirely.
        • by Mac Degger (576336) on Monday October 28, 2002 @02:00AM (#4545660) Journal
          I cannot agree with you for one simple reason. Corporations get the same rights as individual persons, but they lack one very important, if not crucial aspect of being a person: morals.

          Sure, corporations have acharter, but that states nothing more than it's one purpose: make money for the shareholder. And that does not a code of ethics make. I would argue that if you lack any form of morals or ethics, you cannot and should not be treated as a human being. Therefore giving corporations 'human rights' is rediculous.
      • by plague3106 (71849) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @06:59PM (#4543968)
        Capitalism isn't the right way to run a government though. People that make the most money get to determine the laws and rights of others? I don't thinks so.
    • by nomadic (141991) <.nomadicworld. .at. .gmail.com.> on Sunday October 27, 2002 @02:57PM (#4542785) Homepage
      The sad thing is we're not talking huge sums of money here; 9.5 million, spent on multiple candidates? It's because of the small amounts of money that actually get spent that I don't really think there's much quid pro quo involved. The way the lobbyists really get things done is simply through access. They get more access than us, and can argue their case directly to the lawmaker, while we peons have to hope that some of our letters get through their staffs to them, or some non-profit org marshals enough resources to argue their case.
      • by Sarcasmooo! (267601) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @08:17PM (#4544317)
        But representatives only take time to meet with lobbyists when they know that lobbyist represents and organization that is funding their campaign, and keeping them in power. They don't have to meet with every lobbyist. So you can hire a lobbyist, or we can all geek ourselves together and hire a lobbying firm, and the reps are still going to choose to spend there available time in other ways, rather than listen to a pitch from someone who can't afford to payroll their re-election.
      • IF you think for one second that 9.5 million dollars is NOT A HUGE SUM of money, I would be happy to see you carry it FOR A MILE!

        Sorry knee jerk reaction, politically speaking, you're right, 9.5 is not a lot, but damn, I'd sure love to have that kinda money just to push MY idealogies.

        DAMN THAT CAPSLOCK KEY!
    • by Crag (18776) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @03:40PM (#4543033)
      The corporations have no police or armies of their own to speak of (thankfully), and any power they have is given to them by a government which is available to the highest bidder(s). If that government didn't have the kind of power it does, the corporations would have to create their own force, which would alienate their customers.

      It's a myth that the US government holds back the corporations and forces them to play fair. For at least a hundred years it has done the opposite. The only times it every does anything right is when some wealthy person or group pays it to.

      Unfortunately, there is no graceful way to change this situation. Try to change the government and the corporations work against us. Try to change the corporations and the government works against us. It will come to a head this century.
      • next time you hear the words "campaign reform" or "finance reform" in the mouth of a political representative, don't just pass it off as a unimportant/fringe issue. It matters, nowhere more so than in the United States. I don't live over there, but I sure as hell would have loved to have seen John McCain get up and put his campaign finance reform measures through. It would have cleaned up the politics of your country, and done so much good for the entire world - because decisions made in the US (often very much influenced by lobbyists) reverberate around the rest of the globe.

        -- james
    • Keep in mind, the root of the problem is still government. Microsoft (or any private corporation) are not the ones who determine which laws pass and which ones do not. They cannot force a politician to pass any law; they can only attempt to bribe the politician with money. Whether or not the politician accepts the bribe is a decision made by the politician, not Microsoft. Government holds the ultimate power, and therefore the root of the problem lies in government. If we really want to address this practice, the only way to do it is to address the policies of government.

      With that said, the only sure-fire way to reduce the practice of private corporations bribing politicians is to limit the powers of government. The smaller the government, the less incentive private corporations have to try to take advantage of it.
    • How can the interests of individuals even come close to being recognized in an arena like that?

      If that individual is Jane Fonda by outspending them by a massive amount. To quote Counterpunch.org
      Jane Fonda continued to be the largest soft money donor in federal politics. During the first quarter of 2002, Fonda gave $400,000 to Pro-Choice Vote, bringing her total donations to the abortion rights group to $12.7 million since July 1, 2000


      Anyways a couple of points: First off much of what OpenSecrets.org is tracking here IS contributions by individuals. The methodology of OpenSecrets.org is somewhat flawed, or at least debatable. They are not just taking the contributions of Corporate PACs but also take the contributions of individuals and count them as the contributions of their employers. SO Peter Amstein giving 100% of his money to Democrats and George Spix giving all of his money to Republicans is assumed not to be because they are committed (and wealthy) partisans but because Microsoft Corp is directing their giving for the corporations purposes. This probably has *some* merit when you are talking about the very top tier of management giving hundred of thousands. But Open Secrets also includes every $200 or more contribution by every cubicle dweller at Microsoft. If you gave $200 to a candidate because you agreed with their position on Abortion, Open Secrets doesn 't see it as a healthy participation in democracy but as a nefarious plot by Micro$oft to influence Washington. Even for the big donors I think at least *some* of that money is probably donated not by corporate dictates for corporate purposes but because the individual is a partisan for one or the other party or for some cause. Jane Fonda's $12 million dollar expenditure probably has more to do with her stance on abortion than with trying to get special breaks for Universal Studios. She probably even giving money to candidates that support abortion at the *expense* of her personal financial interests - The Pro-choice Democrats she supports are likely to raise her taxes quite a bit more than the pro-life Republicans she is seeking to defeat.

      Also the huge organizations designed to aggregate money (corporations) don't hold a candle next to the huge organizations whose purpose is to aggregate political power - out of the top ten groups donating money to politics only one is a corporations (Phillip Morris) three are proffessional Associations (Realtors, Trial Lawyers & Doctors) the rest are unions.
      • by SideshowBob (82333) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @09:48PM (#4544687)
        The Pro-choice Democrats she supports are likely to raise her taxes quite a bit more than the pro-life Republicans she is seeking to defeat.

        I have to call bullsh*t on this particular myth. In the 22 years since Reagan was elected in 1980 the only time the budget was balanced was when a Dem was president.

        The Republicans, despite vociferous claims to the contrary, are much more for big, intrusive, authoritarian government.

        I think we can all agree that Republicans are morre likely to spend money on defense. Well, the military represents over 40% of the federal budget alone! (source: FCNL [fcnl.org])

        The Republicans have had things far too easy for far too long on the tax-n-spend issue. This is the party of corporate welfare, bloated military spending, and intrusive, unnecessary policing of its own citizens (e.g. the 'war' on drugs, which has inflated the prison populations to unprecedented levels in the industrialized world - yes, prisons do cost money).
        • I'm not a fan of Democrats or Republicans, but I have to note the following facts:

          I have to call bullsh*t on this particular myth. In the 22 years since Reagan was elected in 1980 the only time the budget was balanced was when a Dem was president.

          While the Presedent enjoys the power to veto any actions of Congress, he does not set the Federal budget, Congress does. In the final years of Clinton's presidency, when the government came into the black, Republicans controlled a majority in the Legislature. When Congress shifted to a Democratic majority in 2000, and Bush II was (s)elected, the budget slipped back into the red. Whether this was the fault of the Legislature or of the Executive (or of the political climate in the wake of the terrorist attacks) can be debated ad infinitum.

          This is the party of corporate welfare, bloated military spending, and intrusive, unnecessary policing of its own citizens (e.g. the 'war' on drugs, which has inflated the prison populations to unprecedented levels in the industrialized world - yes, prisons do cost money).

          The Clinton administration saw record levels of drug arrests, convictions and imprisonment. More Americans were prosecuted under his (Democratic) watch, than under Reagan and Bush I combined.

          Now, I'm well aware that the Republicans are guilty of increasing military spending, which grants enormous windfalls to many aggressive-minded corporations, typically run by conservatives. But the arguments being presented here to dispell a "myth" are simply propogating another. There is a lot more going on in the Federal Government than simply the whims of whoever has the helm of the Executive Branch. Also, the modern left in America is way to the right of center when viewed in a global or historical context.

          Simply speaking, if you're truly interested in reducing Federal expenditures, corporate handouts, and intrusive, unecessary policing, voting for Democrats OR Republicans into Federal office is going to get you further from your goals, despite the rhetoric either party uses in it's campaigning.
  • uh yeah (Score:2, Insightful)

    by cHiphead (17854)
    and this is new because... ?

    the open secrets site seems to have a subconscious agenda of its own and they need to be careful about spending too much time exposing just one shady ass organization
  • by Anonymous Coward
    As everyone knows by now, Gray Davis got money from Oracle. Shouldn't that be a Computers/Internet entry?
  • Interesting... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dogas (312359) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @02:44PM (#4542719) Homepage
    I like how all this lobbying started right about when the anti-trust suits started rolling in. Hell, they even set up a "Washington lobbying office". It seems that it might have worked, considering no one really knows what their 'punishment', if any, is.
    • Re:Interesting... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by dattaway (3088) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @03:01PM (#4542810) Homepage Journal
      In America, you can buy your freedom. Someone I was related to was a dumbass for using his chemistry degree to set up a nice drug lab. He was caught, because of his antisocial antics disturbed his neighbors and they called the help of the EPA, which called the FBI, which called the DEA, which called state marshalls...

      His lawyer stated it would cost him $40,000 to guarantee him his freedom. Interestingly, one of his "partners" happened to be a judges son, who got off free. Since my uncle didn't have a defense fund, he is now thankfully serving time and is not using his abilities to further stockpile his toxic waste dump (I'm not sure why it takes *boxes* of different cyanide compounds to manufacture E.)

      My own experience with lawyers many years ago was getting out of 5 nice speeding tickets in one year. $1055 for combined legal costs to maintain my perfect driving record. I would learn from my misdeads others would spend money to work the legal system for their vices. I feel ashamed for my experience, but I learned this is a true way of life for others.
      • Or there are the several instances where politician's kids get away with stuff the rest of us would never, ever be allowed to do.

        Like, for a recent instance, that Bush girl who's been snorting coke -- does she get mandatory sentencing? Heck, no!

        But if she were an ordinary black kid? Her ass would be grass.

        Justice isn't blind, not at all.
      • Re:Interesting... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Osty (16825)

        My own experience with lawyers many years ago was getting out of 5 nice speeding tickets in one year. $1055 for combined legal costs to maintain my perfect driving record. I would learn from my misdeads others would spend money to work the legal system for their vices. I feel ashamed for my experience, but I learned this is a true way of life for others.

        I don't understand what you find wrong with doing what you did. You spent $1055 to save yourself untold thousands of dollars in artificially inflated insurance fees over the next several years after your tickets. Is it then not worthwhile to use the system as it was designed -- you're innocent until proven guilty, and if your lawyer is good enough, they can't prove you guilty. Considering speeding tickets are designed mainly as a source of income for the government, I have absolutely no problem whatsoever fighting those tickets. (many speeding tickets are issued when there's no "unsafe driving" happening other than maybe a bit of excess speed -- why not ticket the people trying to read the morning paper or put on their makeup during their commute?) I pay more than enough in taxes, so why should I also pay for speeding tickets, and the increase in insurance rates (which goes towards buying radar and laser speed detection equipment for law enforcement agencies, to increase the number of speeding tickets issued, to increase the insurance premiums, to buy more equipment, etc)?


        People joke about lawyers being scum, and just out to get your money, and just generally being a bad sort of person. However, I for one would not like to live in a world without lawyers. When the government can trump up anything to get you to pay up (oh no! I was going some arbitrary speed higher than some arbitrarily set speed limit, on a road that can handle some speed higher than what I was going, in a car that can handle the same, with no traffic around me at all!), I consider lawyers the last line of defense between me and the money-grubbing politicians.

  • Surprised? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Sean Trembath (607338) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @02:46PM (#4542726)
    I don't think it comes as any great shock that Microsoft is doing all they can to get their hads in politicians pockets.
    Microsoft walks and talks like a big tobacco company. All that's missing is Bill Gates in cowboy boots.
    It's interesting how the tobacco companies (also huge lobbyists) ancestors owned slaves, whereas Microsoft has enslaved the human race with their craptacular software.
  • Under the table? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by umStefa (583709) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @02:47PM (#4542729) Homepage
    IF microsoft is spending 3 million in 2002 on contributions, how much are they spending on unreported little perks (a notebook to "try out" for a couple of years, fully functional "demo" copy of software, etc)?

    • Re:Under the table? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mcubed (556032)

      I don't doubt that this kind of still happens to a limited degree, but I think the degree is very limited and has been for quite sometime. It simply isn't worth the risk of getting caught, and members of Congress know how easy it is to get caught accepting a gift like an expensive notebook or a car. I know an editor who persuaded the publishing company he works for to send complimentary copies of a newly published book to every senator. (The subject of the book pertained to legislation pending in Congress.) Almost all the books were returned with gracious letters thanking the editor for his interest, but explaining that the publisher's price for the book exceeded the amount Congresspeople are allowed to accept as gifts. Many expressed support for the position taken by the book's author (which was well-known and obvious from the book's title), some said they were interested in the author's arguments and would purchase a copy (probably a tax write-off anyway!), most had no comments one way or the other.

      There are plenty of perfectly legitimate ways for Congresspeople to get perks without accepting under-the-table gifts.

      Michael

  • Maria Cantwell (Score:2, Interesting)

    What is more interesting is that Washington Democrat Senator Maria Cantwell was elected -- "winning" by a red cunt hair against Slade Gordon -- after spending all the fake only-exists-on-paper money she "earned" from being CEO of Real Media.

    She had to be bailed out after her company and their lousy spyware bloatware crashed and burned, and is now ironically bringing in lots of money from the infamous creators of Windows Media: Microsoft.

    More info:

    http://www.cantwellscash.com/ [cantwellscash.com]
    http://www.jewishworldreview.com/michelle/malkin03 2801.asp [jewishworldreview.com]
    • Moee info: http://www.cantwellscash.com/ [cantwellscash.com]

      That site is funded by the Washington State Republican party. Just a thought, but wouldn't you expect it to be a bit paritsan?

      • Merely being partisan does not necessarily imply that any factual declarations are, in fact, bogus and slander or libel. It may impose a slant... but they're probably not stupid enough to post a substantially false history and eat a lawsuit.
  • by spectecjr (31235) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @02:49PM (#4542746) Homepage
    So where's the report on KPCB?

    The venture capital firm behind Netscape, Oracle, Sun, Apple, etc etc etc etc...?

    Until halfway through the antitrust trial, Microsoft's donations were nearly negligible. Compare and contrast that with the above. Don't forget to include the members of the boards of directors of these companies as individuals, as well as their spouses and immediate family when looking up their donations.

    You may be surprised. Microsoft is very new at this game; Silicon Valley has been doing it for YEARS.

    Simon
  • Anyone have a mirror?
  • And the winner is... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by meta-monkey (321000) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @02:50PM (#4542752) Journal
    I'm surprised that MS was the focus of this story. According to the website, other computer companies donated more than MS did. Yeah, MS was the only one under "Computers/Internet," but AOL Time Warner is on there under "TV/Movies/Music." AT&T, Bellsouth, Verizon...they're also internet providers, and all four of those companies gave more than MS did.

    MS clocked in with $9.5M, where AOL spent $12M, and AT&T clocked in with a whopping $17.5M!! Man, I wish they'd lobby me for something...
    • In other news ... Bill Gates was spotted taking deeps breaths of PUBLIC AIR. It's rumored he even drinks water.


      I'm surprized that anyone is the focus of this story. This is NO story. MS,and the other companies are executing their rights within the law to give money to political candidates. They are obviously reporting the results too, otherwise we wouldn't know the amounts. Get over it people, or do something about the preceived problem (like vote for decent candidates and monitor their activities and report to others what the senators/representatives/presidents are doing). Saying MS can't donate money is like those people that say Christians can't hold public office. Them's the rules folks. Live with them or change the constitution. Better yet, don't let your money get into Bill's hands and he won't have that amount to donate away!

      • by drDugan (219551) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @03:35PM (#4542999) Homepage
        I stridently disagree. Just because we don't have a law expressly that forbids action X -- that does not make X ok, moral, or helpful.

        The assumption that laws are the only way to get people to act decently is the reason we have such a bloated, ineffective legal system.

        You are also under-informed to suggest changing the constitution. The assumption that corporations have rights as people, and that money = speech, are nowhere there, but rather in many, much more recent rulings.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 27, 2002 @02:53PM (#4542767)
    It is a sad thing that all the real power in this country lies in the big companies, ie, Microsoft, Tobacco companies, Enron, and so on. They are the ones that decide what passes and what doesn't. That's why us, the average joe, has to put up with stupid laws like the DMCA. This is a sad, but true development.
    • - The Microsoft anti-trust mess still appears to be continuing. Inability to make a suit goes away is not a sign of power.

      - The tobacco companies got hit with a /huge/ lawsuit, and had to surrender an extremely large settlement. And, they're /still/ being nailed with lawsuits from longtime smokers (which will only increase if a certain curious model of asbestos lawsuit succeeds -- some plaintiffs are suing an asbestos firm not for suffering actual ailments, but merely because exposure imposed risk of developing such ailments). Having to pay out billions and billions, and then further being raped by politicians raising cigarette taxes (discouraging your customers) and bans of smoking in bars (ditto) is not a sign of power.

      - Ken Lay should probably not be planning any trips out of the country soon, because the heat isn't off. Neither, for that matter, should Bernie Ebbers, who has gotten to see executive after executive cooperate with authorities to save their own skins.

      When was the last time a government department went bankrupt and had to fold due to chronic inefficiency? When was the last time a high-ranking civil servant was sacked due to incompetence or malfeasance -- keeping in mind that both Reagan and Clinton served a full eight years despite their questionable records? How many companies could basically ignore the need to have a budget, or survive that long with bozos who care more about popularity than efficacy?
    • Actually, the power does lie with the people. We can vote.

      The real problem is, people vote the way TV commercials tell them to. That's why the person who spends the most usually wins. Which makes money important.

      The reason we have stupid legislation is us: Pogo's Law at work again.

  • by NotAnotherReboot (262125) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @02:54PM (#4542772)
    The American Federation of Teachers ($15,512,224
    ) is throwing in much more than Microsoft is on lobbying efforts ($9,468,287).

    And look at how lopsided their contributions are toward democrats. They obviously have special interests- this needs a lot of attention from the media!

    "Microsoft is, conspicuously, the only entry under 'Computers/Internet.'"" Microsoft also conspicuously has tens of billions of dollars in cash to sit on. Heaven forbid that they have any interests in politics.

    And this is interesting how?
  • by jhoude (610589)
    Note that opensecrets.org's pages are written using Microsoft's ASP...
  • The real problem... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    ...is politics in general. As many people,so tritely, observe... people who want power are usually very self-centered and have no concern for the betterment of their fellow man. This is, sadly, completely out of alignment with what politics were originally intended to be. Let's take a look at the official definition of politics and break it down:

    The science of government; that part of ethics which has to do with the regulation and government of a nation or state, the preservation of its safety, peace, and prosperity, the defense of its existence and rights against foreign control or conquest, the augmentation of its strength and resources, and the protection of its citizens in their rights, with the preservation and improvement of their morals.

    Let's also consider that politics is considered a science, where "science" is taken to mean:

    Any branch or department of systematized knowledge considered as a distinct field of investigation or object of study.

    By this definition, a politician should have a great body of knowledge regarding ethics, citizens and their rights and proper morals. If you apply that branch of logic to the politicians of the last few decades, we find that there is something that has slowly gone seriously wrong. Our politicians tend to be anything but knowledgable, ethical, moral or have any concern for citizen's rights!

    We will start with our current administration. The polls say that G.W. Bush has had anywhere from a 49% approval rating [go.com] at lowest and as high as his post Sept. 11th rating of 93%. While this speaks well of him, it completely obscures many well known facts regarding his knowledge (quite lacking), ethics, morality and feelings on citizen's rights. If we delve deeper, we find that he, in fact, has very little knowledge about the system. Further evidenced by the fact that he is a poor speaker and his father's former cabinet appears to be running the entire show. He is just a mouthpiece.

    Regarding ethics, I would question any politician's ethics who would have other men in thir cabinet involved in scandal [time.com]. Especially in a position so close to the power seat as vice-president Cheney. Mr. Cheney's desire to conceal the connections between Enron and the current administration are very disheartening. Even the staunchest conservative must admit that this was not one of the finer moments in conservative history. (The liberal-controlled media argument doesn't wash here either as the news sources that reported negatively on this story tend to be just as far right as you can get.)

    While Mr. Bush professes to being a good christian. He hasn't always been that way. His morals [realchange.org] are not exactly what one would call "good". It's very well known the George W. Bush, was quite the party down, rich kid. As he grew away from his "youthful errors", he became quite the shady businessman. I would have to say that his morals are questionable at best.

    Citizen's rights and the current administration are at odds with each other. This has been an ever increasing problem since Sept. 11th. As most Americans blindly wave their flags, their ability to do much of anything else to affect their own well being is being erroded by things like "The Patriot Act" [thebyteshow.com]. In the name of security, the man in the white house and his staff are trying to convince us that it's good to lose your freedoms sometimes. This is quite damning evidence that he does not understand or care about the citizen's of this country's rights.

    Seeing that all of this is true, it appears that George W. Bush fails to live up to the definition of what a politician should be, as do many of his cabinet.

    The last administration has it's blemishes on many counts as well. Analyzing Mr. Clinton in the same way, we find that his knowledge of the governmental system was stronger than Mr. Bush's. (If anyone can provide links that prove otherwise please do so, I couldn't find any.)

    Where ethics are concerned, Bill Clinton had his share of gaffes [mit.edu]. Not to mention the more serious allegations [robinsweb.com] regarding his time as Governor of Arkansas. No... Sadly, we can't say that Mr. Clinton has shiny repution either.

    Everyone knows about his moral problems [realchange.org] since they've been beaten to death. Like him or not, Bill Clinton was not a man of morals by strict definition.

    As geeks, we all know that it was his administration that passed the DMCA which has potential to seriously impinge on citizen's rights. Not just your ability to "swap songs", but you ability to write code freely!

    So, by the same analysis, Bill Clinton fails the test of what a good politician is. As do most other politicians. Why is this? Because we are humans. We have imperfections that prevent us from being able to truly hold to the ideals of what how politics should work. Some do better than others, but in general the lot of them are corrupt.

    Most politicians are only interested in politics due to their hunger for power. Just that alone is damning as it points to a deep seated greed and selfishness that is almost required to be a politician. So how is it that our system even works? In reality, it doesn't.

    Most of what the operations of the government and the way they affect us are almost 100% happily incidental. Ocassionally one person somewhere deep in the system does one thing right. Another one somewhere else in the system does something else right. And so on... There are the few people here or there who intentionally or unintentionally (They're human, remember?) do something wrong. But the aggregate result is something that more or les resembles a system that works. This illusion trickles upward toward the leaders (Senators, congressmen, governors, and ultimately the president) and makes them look good. (It works this way in any large organization) So... for now we are stuck with a system that appears to work, but is solely based on chance. Or looking at it another way, real politics (as opposed to the ideal defined above) is just another form of gambling.

    In closing, I'll offer you this joke about politics:

    Son: Dad, I have a special report for school. Can I ask you a question?

    Dad: Sure son, what's the question?

    Son: What is politics?

    Dad: Well son, let's take our home for example. I am the wage earner, so let's call me the management. Your mother is the administrator of the money, so let's call her the government. We take care of you and your needs, so let's call you the people. We'll call the maid the working class and your baby brother the future. Understand?

    Son: I'm not really sure dad, I'll have to think about it.

    That night, the boy is awakened by his baby brother's crying, so he went to see what was wrong. Discovering that the baby had a heavily soiled nappy, the boy went to his parent's room and found his mother fast asleep. He than went to the maid's room, where, peeking through the keyhole, he saw his father in bed with the maid. The boy's knocking went totally unheard. The boy went back to his room and went to sleep.

    The next morning...

    Son: Dad, I think I understand politics.

    Dad: That's great son, explain it to me in your own words.

    Son: While the management is screwing the working class, the government is fast asleep, the people are being completely ignored and the future is full of shit.

    ---Whew! All that work just to post this---

    -I am a Windows user

    -I am also a f4g0rt

    -All Windows users are f4g0rtz

    -Bill Gates loves men

    -Linux is the sux0rz

    -BSD is dying

    -Stephen King loved goatse.cx before he died

    -75% of people in the US make up 3/4 of the US population

    -Adolph Hitroll is my bitch

    -RecipeTroll loves the cock too

    -Natalie Portman is naked and petrified

    -I poured hot gritz down my pants and all I got was this lousy T-shirt

    -R.M.S. is a commie

    -Linus Torvalds is keeping his brotha down. Free him!

    -Looser = Loser and vice-versa. Stop complaining and learn New English

    -Imagine a Beowulf cluster of trolls

    -The CowboyNeal jokes are old

    -X is unstable, let's get rid of it

    -KDE is the sux0rz, GNOME rules

    -Real men use TWM

    -vi is better then emacs (no it's not, emacs is better than vi)=Tastes great/Less Filling

    -Ford sucks

    -Chevy sucks

    -Capitalism is dying

    -Linux on the desktop is dead

    -IE won the browser war, give it up Mozilla. (No. The war's not over yet M$)

    -MySQL is robust and scalable

    -PostgreSQL is better than MySQL. Nyah!

    -So you like your pages W I D E N E D?

    -I 4m 1337. giv3 m3 w4r3z d00dz.

    -w00t!

    -In other news...

    -1. Steal concept from open sores 2. ??? 3. Profit!!!

    -RMS is a dirty hippie

    -Moderation sucks

    -UNIX will never be as secure as VMS

    -GayPee is not a hacker, he's a dork

    -General strike!! Now!!!!!!

    -ESR is a homo

    -Grok THIS you GIMP!

    -Corporations are evil

    -Corporations are good

    -Quake is the sux0rz, give me Unreal Tourney! (You Canadian f4g0rt, UT sucks, Quake 0wnz j00)

    -Canadians are gay

    -Americans are stupid

    -Brits are assholes

    -For hot gulrz see: http://www.bakla.net

    -~the fux0rz has spoken~-

  • Did you know Dick Cheney was chief executive officer of Halliburton [opensecrets.org], a huge oil company?

    Anyone shocked by the fact that Philip Morris, a tobacco company, is in the top 5 all time donors [opensecrets.org]?
    • ...to the grotesque and lopsided amount of influence big labor has. But wait, they're for the "little guy" just like the Democrats. Hah. Vote Libertarian.

      http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/ [opensecrets.org]

      Blue Chip Investors
      Top Donor Dossiers

      Here you'll find total contributions for the 100 biggest givers in American politics since 1989--information that exists nowhere else. Read the full report. Read about our methodology.

      * View top organizational givers by rank
      * View top organizational givers by alphabetical order
      * View top individual contributors from these organizations

      Search for an organization by name:

      Top 10 donors:
      American Fedn of State, County & Municipal Employees $30,671,426
      National Education Assn $21,116,383
      National Assn of Realtors $20,414,385
      Assn of Trial Lawyers of America $19,931,717
      Philip Morris $18,951,671
      Teamsters Union $18,858,733
      Intl Brotherhood of Electrical Workers $18,394,547
      American Medical Assn $18,377,814
      Service Employees International Union $17,647,346
      Communications Workers of America $17,597,372
    • Anyone shocked by the fact that Philip Morris, a tobacco company, is in the top 5 all time donors [opensecrets.org]?

      No.

      Philip Morris is far from "a tobacco company". Tobacco is just part of what they do. They have hundreds of food brands, in fact, a large majority of the "name brand" stuff in the grocery is Philip Morris. Check their site sometime, I'd bet your refrigerator is full of their products.

      But that's not the point of my reply. The point is, the overt contributions of Philip Morris are nothing. You also have to look at the billions and billions of tobacco tax money that the tobacco industry generates for the government(s). The settlement with the states was also a big source of free money for governments to spend on whatever they wanted.

      The government is addicted to tobacco in a big way. Even if PM gave zero in direct donations to candidates, indirectly, they still give billions in tax revenue each year. The government likes it this way. They can act all big and bad an anti-tobacco, when in reality, they love the tobacco industry, and can't live without it.

      The democrats might whine for tobacco tax increases "for the children", when in reality they are just propping up the covert system of graft, that somehow slips past the public eye unnoticed.
    • Did you know Dick Cheney was chief executive officer of Halliburton, a huge oil company?

      Get your facts straight...Halliburton is not a "huge oil company." It is a supplier of equipment and services to Big Oil, but it is not itself Big Oil. Two seconds' worth of googling would've led you to this [halliburton.com].

  • by Aliks (530618) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @03:04PM (#4542824)
    A company is bound to invest where it thinks its future revenues will lie.

    In this case the future revenues will come from legislation protecting Intellectual Property monopolies. Sad but true. Every million dollars spent protecting interests in DC will return manyfold millions of dollars in terms of higher prices for product.

    Maybe there is a ray of hope though. The so-called robber barons of the railroads, steel, shipping and oil back at the end of the 19th Century were eventually reined in. I wonder why they didn't lobby the hell out of government at the time, and if they did, why did they lose the battle against anti-trust legislation?
    • by Odinson (4523) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @04:07PM (#4543185) Homepage Journal
      I wonder why they didn't lobby the hell out of government at the time, and if they did, why did they lose the battle against anti-trust legislation?"

      They did lobby and won most battles, just not all.. The side effect was for our economy to gear up for a very deep cleansing cycle. We call it the great depression.

      Capitalism in a democracy (or republic) can operate with only so much overhead (corruption) and then it cleanses itself. This happens every sixty years or so. The greater the corruption, the deeper the recession/depression. Every single MSFT or AOL or PMs lobbying successes equals a larger failure country wide. Eventually (any remotely) economic law will be total spegetti code and we will need an FDR to fix it.

      Lets hope the voting public realises this before they vote/relect any candidate without strict views on campain finance. Soft money may be gone after this election, but the election process is far from fair.

  • by sam_handelman (519767) <skh2003@nospAm.columbia.edu> on Sunday October 27, 2002 @03:06PM (#4542834) Homepage Journal
    A decade ago, Chairman Bill was minor league, but decidedly democratic, by a 3:1 margin. This was back when Big Blue was the great enemy, and Microsoft wrote cool Mac software (oh, yeah, and DOS.)

    As his power base has grown, and as he has become more entrenched and established, he has increasingly favored the Republicans. Of course, the decision of the Clinton white house to trustbust him can't have helped.

  • Hmmm. I sometimes wonder if it wouldn't be more profitable to create than to litigate? Look at Anti GPL lobbying efforts [slashdot.org] mentioned earlier this week. I mean, you think a better defense for a company would be to just churn out out better products for lower prices. It would certainly have a chilling effect on their competition.

    I also wonder how many tax breaks are afforded these corporations at the customer's expense - and how it might be better for the economy if we had more cash on hand to buy more of their products - versus more cash for them to lobby.

    I guess it's easier to litigate than to create.
  • by harlows_monkeys (106428) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @03:12PM (#4542875) Homepage
    I remember years ago there was a big flap in the computer press about how the leading candidates for HDTV standards that the FCC was considering would not work well with computers.

    The reason for this was that the broadcasters and the TV manufacturers and pretty much everyone else remotely interested in HDTV standards had tons of lobbyists working full time to push their interests, except for companies in the computer industry. A couple computer companies had a couple of part-time lobbyists working on this, or something pathetic like that.

    Microsoft is not doing something bad here. The ones doing something bad are all the other companies that should be on that list but aren't.

  • by jukal (523582) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @03:13PM (#4542880) Journal
    According the site Jay Inslee [house.gov] has got most [opensecrets.org] from MSFT, total of $237,400 - nice money already. He is one of the persons behind the "Internet Radio Fairness Act [house.gov]" - "designed to make the copyright royalty arbitration process more fair for smaller entities." What else has he been involved with?
  • by AELinuxGuy (588522) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @03:16PM (#4542904)
    Perhaps we already have one (correct me if you know), but it seems that a lot of important tech issues are being decided in Washington by the highest bidder. Two things get action in the U.S. political system...money and votes. They pay attention to groups of people - like the steel workers of america - because they vote uniformly in mass and all contribute financially to their PAC. There are way more of us (the open source community) than many of these unions...we just need organization. I'd be more than willing to give the amount I owe in taxes each year to the Free Software Foundation to balance off as a tax credit if they acted as a PAC for our cause.
    • Yeah and send your donations through paypal [slashdot.org] because I could always use the money.
    • by Fnkmaster (89084) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @03:51PM (#4543116)
      This is a fabulous idea. We are pretty good at organizing, very politically opinionated on certain issues that may not be of interest to the general population but affect all of our lives, and we have a rather high mean income, so we could all afford to give a bit of money.


      Wait a second, isn't the EFF supposed to do this already? I guess the EFF spreads their efforts out a bit, and perhaps fails to focus strongly enough on the legislative branch, and lobbying Congress to pass bills more friendly to the technology community. The EFF seems to get stuck in the judicial process, relying on the admittedly somewhat more rights-friendly judiciary to save our asses. Frankly, I don't think the Free Software Foundation, which you mention, is the kind of organization I would want representing my point of view in the political arena, though I think they have done a lot of great work to promote Free Software. I think we could accomplish a lot with an organization that existed to promote legislation friendly to the cause of freedom online, that had a pro-Free Software stance without being radically dogmatic.


      In the meantime, why not donate to EFF [eff.org]?

      • and in general rules prevent non-profits from many types of lobbying. This is the main reason that churches usually don't advocate and name candidates from the pulpit- they could lose their non-profit status.

        The EFF can educate legislators and encourage people to write to them, and I believe the EFF already does this. But the EFF probably isn't allowed to do too much more with the legislative branch- certainly they can't hand money to them.

    • Geekpac [geekpac.org] is the only one that I know of right now. It is still forming up so it will not be much of a force in this election. The people behind The Linux Show [thelinuxshow.com] are behind this PAC,
    • ...And it's the Green Party. The Greens do not take any corporate donations at any time, for any reason. That's one of the reasons it's the ONLY party to have grown during the last year.


      In fact, the Green Party is the only one that thinks corporate power is a problem. And we are the only party whose values line up with the open-source commuity. See for yourself at http://www.greenpartyus.org/

  • Interesting chart (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 27, 2002 @03:18PM (#4542918)
    It completely reaffirms why I can't stand the Republican party.

    Look at the charts that are overwhelmingly Republican. Tobacco, Oil, Big Business.

    Now look at the charts that are overwhelmingly Democrat. Individual Rights, Workforce Rights.

    Realistically both parties completely suck, but I still don't know how anyone with any common sense or sense of social Justice can be a Republican.
  • maybe I'm just being paranoid, but look at it :
    prior to the swinging of the executive pendulum towards the republicans, more of their money went to democrats. but ( and it would be interesting to see what they gave in 97 and 99 ) when things took a turn for the worse publicly ( interns, cigars, cum-stained clothing ), more money goes to the republicans. i'd like to see what they did in 99, when everyone sort of just said fuck it, so what if he banged an intern? look at hillary... and got over it.
    looking at the numbers, i'd say they were hedging their bets in 98-00, and then went w/ the winner when dubya got in. judging from the results of the case, i'd say it paid off.
    • looking at the numbers, i'd say they were hedging their bets in 98-00, and then went w/ the winner when dubya got in. judging from the results of the case, i'd say it paid off.

      Gates absolutely hated Clinton. A good friend of ours (went to the dark side for many $$'s at M$) was at a party at Gates house where Gates went on an absolute tirade against Clinton almost to the point of breaking down in tears before leaving the room. Our friend tells us it was really spooky and kinda sad, but it was most certain where Bill Gates political bent was focused. Shortly after hearing about this, I was watching CSPAN where dubya was coming out against the M$ anti-trust trial. And we all know the history since...Dubya gets in courtesy of the supreme court, appoints Ashcroft and gets rid of the entire Microsoft anti-trust legal team.

  • Maybe a little offtopic, but:
    Labor lobbying is 94% slanted towards Democrats!
    I'm surprised only because I always thought it was just a stereotype. Good article. Thanks for sharing :)
    • You haven't noticed the fact that unions practically always endorse Democrats, and that they are a LARGE part of the delegates at party conventions?

      Some of the unions were probably a bit pissed off at Clinton and the Democrats over NAFTA, but they're still more likely to get favors from the Democrats.
  • by dh003i (203189) <dh003i@@@gmail...com> on Sunday October 27, 2002 @03:28PM (#4542963) Homepage Journal
    Both soft-money and hard-money contributions to either political party should be flat-out illegal.

    With this kind of money flying around, there's no way in hell that the Senate and Congress will represent the people, and be for and held accountable to the people. They're for the corporations and accountable to them, as well as other money-laden organizations.

    Money being given to politicians for political objectives is disturbing, no matter who does it. Its obviously disturbing when its MS and the Tobacco companies giving money to politicians, especially when the government's supposed to be trialing MS for being an illegal monopoly.

    Its also disturbing when teachers unions donate 15M dollars. Sure, some of that goes to make sure that the teaching of evolution isn't outlawed in schools. But most of it goes towards protecting bad teachers who should be fired. Thanks to fanatical tenure terms enforced by teachers unions, teachers who should be fired aren't. Point in case, Rita Wilson. That child-molesting bitch sexually harassed, sexually assaulted, and violated the privacy of at least twenty teenaged girls entering a school dance. Another great one is the case around Brandy Blackbeard, where some retarded teacher accused her of "casting a hex on him" and she was suspended.

    Contributions to politicians from organizations are just thinly veiled bribes. In a democracy, everyone is supposed to be equal, but such contributions make that impossible. Ideas and laws are propogated not based upon how many voting citizens like them or how good they are, but on who has the most money to give to politicians. Point of case, the DMCA, and the 1998 Mickey Mouse Copyright Extention Act.
    • Not to mention teachers who flat out suck and should be fired for that.

      I had a Spanish teacher in High School who didn't teach jack. He would spend most of the class period asking the students "trivia" questions for extra points. Maybe once or twice a week we would crack open the Spanish book and attempt to learn something. There were hardly any homework assignments or tests at all in the class.

      Yet, very few students complained because he gave almost everyone in the class a free grade of "A." The only students who complained were the one or two people who actually wanted to learn something.

      When I privately asked an administrator if they knew what was happening in the class, they said they did. When I asked why they didn't fire the bum for not teaching what he was being paid to teach (or at least get on his case), they replied they couldn't because of some nonsense with the teacher's union and "tenure."

      Seriously, it seems like something really warped is going on in schools, and I wouldn't put it past all the teacher's union "contributions" that are often made against the will of many teachers themselves to state and federal legislatures.
    • It's obviously disturbing when it's _______ and ________ giving money to politicians.

      (Put your name in a blank... and a strip of duct tape over your mouth. Bye bye, 1st Amendment.)

    • If contributions are illegal, who do you think is going to end up in office? Only people that are already rich enough to pay for commericials, ads, etc. Do you really want the rich to control the country even more when you'll never even hear about anyone running who isn't rich?
    • "Contributions to politicians from organizations are just thinly veiled bribes. In a democracy, everyone is supposed to be equal, but such contributions make that impossible."

      The contributions bit is already skewed in the individuals' favor. Ten individuals are allowed to contribute more money ($1000 each, $10,000 total) than a single organization representing ten people ($5000 total).

      The problem isn't the contributions, the problems are:
      1. Nobody knows about them
      2. Nobody cares enough to look into them
      Politicians would be a lot less likely to accept contributions if they were heavily criticized for it.
  • Notice how the site posts the following disclosure at the bottom of many of the Congressional query pages:

    Quality of Disclosure:

    Quality of disclosure data has been removed from the site because of errors in the Federal Election Commission's database. The FEC has informed us that it will not supply updated disclosure data until mid-October. We will post new figures on disclosure quality as soon as possible.


    Convenient timing, eh? Elections are November 5th, and the FEC won't supply the updated information until "mid-October". That's probably not enough time for opensecrets to input the data before the elctions.

    If the FEC supplied that information on a timely basis, I might be able to make a more educated decision on November 5th.

    Suspicious timing, if you ask me.
  • Microsoft is, conspicuously, the only entry under 'Computers/Internet

    Hold on to those conclusions cowboy, just because they are the only entry does NOT mean that they are the only technology contributor.

    Opensecrets is a GREAT site, and I really appreciate their efforts[1], but their database is far from complete. I've been browsing the site over the last few days, and I notice that Opensecrets has information for many of the Democratic congressional candidates, but not for many Republican candidates.

    Check out the race in my District [opensecrets.org]. We have information for Barbara Lee, for the other two candidates, it says "No reports on record for this candidate. ". Not a good measure, yet.

    Does this mean that Democrat$ receive more money then Republican$? NO!

    It simply means that, for whatever reason, Opensecrets has the data for the Democrats, but has less information for the Republicans.

    [1]: So valuable that I donated money to them, even through I just got laid off. YOU SHOULD DONATE TOO [opensecrets.org]).
  • And in response... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Black Copter Control (464012) <samuel-local@bcg ... minus physicist> on Sunday October 27, 2002 @03:44PM (#4543064) Homepage Journal
    They've given about $3m to the two political parties.

    One way to respond to this is with Volunteer time:.

    If you presume that volunteer time is worth $10/Hr, and a (reasonably high) 32 hours/ person (4 hours/week over 8 weeks). that means that it would take about 10,000 people volunteering on these terms to outbid Microsoft's 'donations'.

    If you want to make the biggest impact with this, you may be best to gather together a couple dozen (or even a couple hundred) of your best friends and go in force to your local candidate's office. Tell them how many people you have at your service, and tell them that you'd like to know where the candidate would stand on issues important to you and that you're giving your time to the candidat who best supports your interests.

    This is non trivial: 10 people, 30 hours each, $10+/hour is the equivilalent of a $3000 donation. More if you're doing more than grunt work (e.g. doing computer support). The real truth of the matter is that good volunteers can be worth their money in gold.

    Part of the value of going in as a group is that you can probably volunteer together. It can be a great social activity. Be aware, however, that part of the value of volunteer time is that it is a wonderful way to meet other people. I've made some great friends and gotten some interesting contacts by doing political work.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 27, 2002 @03:48PM (#4543097)
    Corporations are neither human beings nor are they citizens. The notion that they are entitled to donate money to a politician is ridicules. If corporations are allowed to donate money to politicians or political parties (which they are) then so should other none citizens and inanimate objects like, rocks, dirt, houses, house pets, books, computers, etc. Corporations are inanimate objects that have been granted (unfairly) anthropomorphic powers because they are the possessions of the 'super rich'. As long as this situation is allowed to endure the US should not be considered a democracy.
    • Does it really make a difference if they can donate or not?

      I mean if Bill Gates got a 2 million dollor bonous (or not, he has plenty o dough) and then donated 2 million dollors to campaign x, does anybody doubt where it came from?

      I don't think you can prevent this from happening without capping spending to a certain amount, and you can't do that without taking away free speech. It's a bitch, but that is all there is too it.
  • by TheSHAD0W (258774) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @04:36PM (#4543316) Homepage
    Microsoft, like many other industries, is under attack by government. Microsoft, like many other industries, is trying to buy off the US government by lobbying Congress. It's a slimy, immoral thing to do, and I'd expect just that of Microsoft. But it's not illegal.

    Ya know, everyone thinks corporations have too much power over the government. Thing is, everyone blames the corporations. Me, I blame the GOVERNMENT. What, they make bribery legal, and you blame people and organizations for taking advantage of the fact?

    Everyone pisses and moans about the US being ravaged by capitalism and the free market. But the United States doesn't run under a capitalist system. It runs under a MERCANTILIST system, which is a very different animal. A truly free market can't exist when the government meddles with it, with taxes and tax credits, and regulations and licenses... A large corporation is very happy to have regulations placed on it; those rules may decrease its profits a little, but a smaller business will wither and die under that chilly wind. Do you wonder why small companies are disappearing?
  • by leonbev (111395) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @04:51PM (#4543380) Journal
    Microsoft isn't the only major corporation that has been funneling money to political organizations. Looking at the top 100 list, you'll see a lot of companies with "questionable" ethics that "donate" even larger sums of money than Microsoft:

    5 Philip Morris $18,951,671
    12 AT&T $17,464,374
    18 Citigroup Inc $14,762,646
    19 United Parcel Service $14,621,284
    21 Goldman Sachs $13,665,527
    26 AOL Time Warner $12,195,822
    28 FedEx Corp $11,555,286
    29 BellSouth Corp $10,838,209
    30 SBC Communications $10,695,349
    31 Verizon Communications $10,255,052
    33 RJR Nabisco/RJ Reynolds Tobacco $10,079,162
    34 Ernst & Young $9,967,638
    35 Lockheed Martin $9,862,899
    36 JP Morgan Chase & Co $9,861,326
    40 Microsoft Corp $9,468,287

  • I find it noteworthy that Microsoft stayed in large part out of the political contributions arena until the government started threatening to force Microsoft to change what so far remains a lucrative business model. The fact that more cash went to the Republicans is due to a Democratic controlled Department of Justice turning up the heat. The favoring of Republicans was simply trying to test things to see if the conservatives would treat them any differently. The Democrats got some favorable financial treatment because some of them didn't like what the administration was doing any more than some Republicans.

    It would have been better if the government had stayed out of the fight because:

    (1) Microsoft would have stayed out of the political financing racket.

    (2) Alternatives products are quietly preparing to kick Microsoft's ass in certain marketing
    venues.

    Point 1 backfired because it helped the Republicans which are already seen as the enemy of fair competition and the small guy. Oops. You'd think the anti-Microsoft croud would have known better than to go to the government for help because politicos only do things that increase each one's clout. Look at the DMCA as an example. Hollywood will contribute the bejesus out of politicians that go along with them.

    As a conservative I look at certain things that have come from Open Source with glee. For instance I firmly believe that current Linux marketing provides an arena where distributors have to compete not on the control of a base platform, but exclusively on the value THEY ADD
    to the base. The market will choose the best Value. Simple competition.

    And before I forget, quite a few respondents to the original post have based their remarks on the idea that we live in a democracy. It needs to be said once again that we live in a "Representational Republic", not a democracy. We don't vote on everything. We elect officials that (hopefully) represent us when they do the voting.

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