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Details of MSFT's Antitrust Lobbying 711

An anonymous sent in linkage to "A new ZDNet article detailing new evidence presented to the judge presiding over the Microsoft anti-trust case. It shows that Microsoft made political contributions during last year's (well, 2000's) elections on a scale never seen before... over $6 million. As comparison, this is four times the amount spent by Enron. It also reveals that Microsoft has been hiring every political lobbyist, and every law firm, with anti-trust expertise and putting them to work on unrelated projects- anything to make them unavailable to work for critics of Microsoft."
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Details of MSFT's Antitrust Lobbying

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  • by Bowie J. Poag ( 16898 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @10:11AM (#2999609) Homepage

    We elected the politicans who made the laws in the first place which allowed campaign contributions to be illegal. Infact, during the last election, we didn't want the guy who was willing to do away with them. We wanted to play Bush vs. Gore instead.

    Before you run off pointing fingers at Microsoft for doing what they are within the scope of the law to do, ask yourself where the core of the corruption sits. Its not with them, or the politicians. Its us, and our lack of desire to make our elected officials accountable for their actions.

    Lobbying wouldn't exist if we as a people decide not to allow it. Anything beyond it would be bribery.

    • by 1010011010 ( 53039 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @10:15AM (#2999628) Homepage
      The only truly effective Campaign Finance Reform is to reduce the power of the federal government. As long as the turnip remains large, and growing larger, every goat on the planet will be fighting for a piece of it.

      If the Federal government were actually limited in scope (refer to Constitution here), then there would be a lot less to lobby for, to "contribute soft money" for, etc.

      I would like to not only limit the power of the government, but prevent lawyers from holding office.
      • The only truly effective Campaign Finance Reform is to reduce the power of the federal government.

        This is dead on. I do not underastand those who say that the answer to bad ans stupid laws are is more of the same. People will bribe governments so long as governments have the power do something for them.

        • People will bribe governments so long as governments have the power do something for them.

          And when the government does not have any power anymore, we will have to bribe whatever entity governing instead of the government. I prefer to pay tax than "microsoft tax" or mob "protection" tax.

          • ...People will bribe governments so long as governments have the power do something for them.

          True but would you rather the bribes that polititican take be legal, as they are now, in the form of "Soft Money"? Or would you rather the that the dishonest people in government really act like crooks and be forced to solicit and accept illegal bribes? I would much rather see that we call it what it is (a bribe) and treat it that way, then wave our arms and declare that the real problem is elsewhere.

          Yes I understand that this is not to the point of the original argument, that government is to big and must be reduced, but change will most likely be incremental and not all at once. Let's take our victories where we can.

      • I think that it is not the Federal government in general but the Legislative branch specifically that has gotten sickingly over powerful. They have totally shifted all power away from the Judicial and the Executive branches.

        The Justice system is so bogged down that Congress can pass laws that they know will not be repealed by the Justice Department for years (when they can claim it was their predecessors who passed it in the first place). The President has become more of a figurehead than the Queen of England.

        What is even worse is that there is so much childish, partisanship in Congress that nothing ever gets done except when they have a common goal which is usually to benefit the corporate giants that line their pockets.
        • The President a figurehead? Surely you jest. Surely, watching the events of this fall, you've observed that G.W. has gotten every item on his wish list, just by draping himself in the flag. In fact, when I think about our post-WWII military record, it seems that almost all of our adventures have been spurred on by the executive branch and either rubber-stamped by congress, or snuck past them. (I'm thinking Vietnam, various adventures in Nicaragua, Panama, Haiti, Grenada, the Gulf War, the current conflict in Afghanistan, etc.)

          I do agree about the childish partisanship, except that I get the feeling that it's all a ruse to distract us from noticing that common goal you mention. (lining their pockets w/ corporate money)
      • I don't agree. The size of the government is not directly related to the corruption level...though it may be related to inneficiency. However, inefficiency has mostly to do with badly conceived and/or implemented management structures, and that can be dealt with after careful analysis.

        No, the real - the only - remedy to this crisis of democracy is to curtail the financial power of the lobbies and private donators. Here in Quebec we had campaign financing reform thirty years ago, placing severe limits on how much politicians can receive from companies and individuals, and it has greatly enhanced the integrity of the political class. Sure, nothing's perfect, but it's still a lot better than it was before!

        Cutting out the source of evil, i.e. lobbies and companies "buying" influence (when that influence should come from the citizens alone if representative democracy is to be, well, democratic) by putting severe caps on campaign contribution is the simplest yet most efficient way to clean up Washington of its grimy layer of corruption. Well, the first layer, at least. If you don't think that's true, then ponder why most of the political class spends so much effort preventing this from happening...
      • So when you reduce the power of the federal government... where does it go?

        I seem to recall that the early power struggles in our countries infancy were primarily federal government vs. state governments. If more power were granted to the states, Microsoft and other corporations would merely switch their focus to brib^H^H^H^H contributing to state and local officials (Not that they're overlooking them now, mind).

      • Man, you Libertarians crack me up.
        You act as if the government is some kind of third party in our lives like a referee in a football game. Ostensibly, the government is us . . . "We the People." So by advocating the reduction of the power of government you're advocating a reduction of the power of the people. I take that personally as I am one of those people. The people of the United States of America are already on their knees bowing to the power of the corporation. Why would you advocate reducing our only means of defending ourselves from exploitation?

        We the People!
        • As a Libertarian, I have to respond: Libertarians are in favor of *moving* and *reallocating* government power.

          Your argument that Libertarians are in favor of reducing power is simply incorrect.

          I want my locally elected official to have the power that he/she should have as written in the Constitution. *I*, personally, want to power to decide certain things about my life, leaving the goverment out of those decisions.

          As a result, these powers need to be taken away fro the federal government. This is not a *reduction* in power, but a reallocation.

          The entire start of this thread was that if you reduce power to the federal government, you reduce power to corporations to bribe those same individuals. Your argument that we need a overly-protective federal government to protect us from those same corporations is exactly opposite to that thinking and the evidence pointed out in the original article.

          As for everyone arguing that moving power to the states will only mean that MS will resort to bribing them - remember who it is pushing for a weak settlement (Department of Justice and the White House) and who it is pushing for more extreme measures (the states and the states' Attorney Generals). This is direct evidence against that claim.
      • As long as we the people find a way to sharply reduce transnational and otherwise big corporate power simultaneously, I will fully agree with you. Major centralized power in all its forms is bad for humanity, and more specificially, the freedom/independence of each and every one of us.
      • by SerpentMage ( 13390 ) <[ ] ['' in gap]> on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @12:00PM (#3000256)
        It really does not have anything to do with reducing the power of an individual government. What has to do with is empowerment of the people.

        I live in Switzerland which is a true democracy. In Switzerland every person has the right to vote yes or no to certain decisions. The government is only there for the details. Sure Swiss vote quite a bit, but the power is with the Swiss people and only the Swiss people. And in that case lobbying has absolutely no effect unless of course the lobbyists decide to give money to each Swiss.

        True democracy works and it should be used more often in other countries.
    • by desertfool ( 21262 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @10:16AM (#2999631) Homepage
      How timely, as well. Watch the House of Reps. today as they kill a bill for some form of campaign finance reform.

      Have any of you American /.'ers called YOUR Representative to say that you want reform? Probably not.

      I couldn't blame MS for this. They are just playing the game, and playing it well.

    • In the end it's all going to boil down to a few possibile illegalities, and a lot of gray area. Retaining law firms so they can't work with the opposition, while ethically shady, is nevertheless legal.

      The problem is with those who take the money, as you said. Anybody who believes that the current campaign finance reform crap (I have to call it what it is) is going to do ANYTHING, just think again. Whenever the recipients, namely the politicians have tried to 'clean it up, for the good of everyone', all that happens is the balance shifts around and loopholes are found. Heck, soft money didn't exist before the much touted Watergate reform!

      Can I fault Microsoft for doing stuff like this? Probably, this is /. afterall, but it wouldn't be completely fair to do so. Companies do this kind of stuff all the time, to varying levels of success and discreteness.

      For as long as Congress can make laws regulating what they cannot do, this problem will always exist in one form or another! That's life.
      • by gilroy ( 155262 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @10:30AM (#2999716) Homepage Journal
        Blockquoth the poster:

        Whenever the recipients, namely the politicians have tried to 'clean it up, for the good of everyone', all that happens is the balance shifts around and loopholes are found. Heck, soft money didn't exist before the much touted Watergate reform!

        This is not directed to the poster per se but to all who carp along these lines, in increasing numbers today:

        Oh, whine whine whine. Of course people are going to find loopholes. Of course money will creep in again. Of course new dastardly means of influence peddling will be found.

        How absolutely fratzen stupid is it to throw up your hands and say, "Oh, well, the system can't be made perfect so we shouldn't even try to improve it."

        If new loopholes arise, plug them. Plain and simple. Yes, you'll actually have to keep figthing this battle. Yes, it will be honest-to-God actual work to be a member of a democracy. Horror of horrors.

        Stop bemoaning the lack of perfectibility. It doesn't get us anywhere and it actually impedes what progress can be made.

    • I never understood how companies get away with funding political parties in the first place. They are, I think, only supposed to spend money if it will benefit their shareholders.

      So they could say they were supporting one party over the other because they thought it's policies would benefit them.

      But in general companies (in the US and the UK) support both main parties.

      So either they are doing this without expecting anything in return (which is wasting shareholders money), or they are expecting to gain something for their money (which is bribery).

      So how is this legal??
    • Correction: lobbying wouldn't exist if the government were limited to those things this country's founders intended it to be limited to. Government can impose arbitrary restrictions (e.g. decreeing your property a "wetland" or a habitat for an endangered species, thus making it impossible for you to do anything with it and also impossible to sell to anyone) or just seize your property. I despise Microsoft, but lobbying is defense against government just as alarms and firewalls are defense against thieves.
    • You're right on the Republican side of things certaintly. McCain would have had this taken care and probably would have beat Gore into the ground. On the other hand, Gore (probably bitter about his only scandals) promised that campaign finance reform would be at the top of his agenda if he'd one. Instead we chose the only one out of the three that really couldn't care less. On the plus side though, the world is getting back to normal now that Iranians are chanting "Death to America" in the streets again.
    • We elected the politicans who made the laws in the first place which allowed campaign contributions to be illegal. Infact, during the last election, we didn't want the guy who was willing to do away with them. We wanted to play Bush vs. Gore instead.

      Gore was one of the guys willing to do serious campaign reform.
  • Enron? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Em Emalb ( 452530 ) < minus poet> on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @10:12AM (#2999615) Homepage Journal
    "Microsoft's campaign contributions significantly surpassed those of Enron," said Roeder in his report."

    So? What does Microsoft have to do with Enron? Oh, I get it..It's popular to bash Enron right now.

    More to the point, what did you expect MS to do? Suddenly start playing fair?

    Oh, you got me, here's where I hid the bodies, etc.? Please.
    • Re:Enron? (Score:3, Informative)

      by HCase ( 533294 )
      I believe Enron was mentioned for a number of reasons.
      1. It has recently become a very well known entity.
      2. It was also large and had lots of money.
      3. It spent quite a bit of money lobbying.
      4. It puts people in the mindset the article is looking for.
    • Re:Enron (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Speare ( 84249 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @10:38AM (#2999762) Homepage Journal

      Currently, Enron is the posterchild for the reason for campaign finance reform. If our politicians are swayed by the campaign contributions of Enron's scale, what corruption is seeded by a larger sum of money? If the advertising power of the campaigns is knocked askew by some soft money, isn't it knocked asunder by larger sums?

      For a few stories linking Enron to campaign finance, you can look at this topic list on []. The topic is campaign finance. The headlines mostly discuss Enron in recent weeks.

  • by thesolo ( 131008 ) <> on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @10:13AM (#2999619) Homepage
    Why we need to bring soft money donations to an end! If these types of unregulated donations are allowed to continue, we will just see a further buying & selling of the US government (yes, it IS possible, believe it or not!).

    This news probably doesn't surprise too many people in this crowd, I think we all knew that MS was pretty generous with soft monies, but it's very nice to see an article like this. The best part of the entire article? The paragraph about the $25k given to buy off South Carolina's Attorney General.

    P.S. Anyone else amazed by the fact that there is a place called Chevy Chase, Maryland?!
    • P.S. Anyone else amazed by the fact that there is a place called Chevy Chase, Maryland?

      And that someone MS worked/lobbied there? their 2001 site says::
      "he Village contains about 200 single-family residences and a few religious and professional

    • I don't understand the call for ending "soft money." OK, a few definitions: "hard money" is money given to a political candidate or party under the rules adopted after Watergate, intending to limit the influence of money on elections; "soft money" is any other money used for political purposes. So, money used to promote a candidate is "hard money" and is regulated, while money given to build a party's membership (for example) is "soft money" and is unregulated.

      One way to build the party is to run "issue ads". For the uninitiated, "Bill Clinton blows goats. Al Gore says Clinton is the best President ever." is an issue ad. On the other hand, "Bill Clinton blows goats. Al Gore says Clinton is the best President ever. Vote Gore." is supporting a political candidate, and thus is subject to hard money limits.

      Now, on the one hand, the regulation of this spending means that there is no way that I could take out an ad saying "Vote for " on TV, because it's more costly than the rules allow. (This is blatantly unconstitutional.) On the other hand, I could take out an ad saying " is a total wad" and I'd be perfectly legal. Political parties can also take out such ads.

      So you want to ban "soft money". Sorry, you can't. The Supreme Court has already held that "money is expression" in that preventing someone from airing their views violates the first amendment.

      The Shays-Meehan (sp?) bill would instead ban unregulated contributions to political parties. There would be no prohibition on companies, unions or PACs running all the issue ads they want, or all the get out the vote campaigns they want, on behalf of a party, so long as the party does not direct their activities. Could somebody explain to me how preventing one body of private citizens (a political party) from doing something, while allowing another (say, a PAC) to do that thing, would be constitutional? It smacks of a bill of attainder, and certainly violates the first amendment in the event that what's being prevented is the expression of political views.

      It seems to me that the better way to handle election finance issues is to require all money used for political purposes to be disclosed, and to prosecute those guilty of influence peddling or accepting bribes. In most cases, it won't be clear cut, but it would certainly be possible to recall politicians who are abusing their office by acting on behalf of those who spent money for them. And realistically, what would probably happen is that candidates would get more money directly, and outside spending would decrease.

    • > Anyone else amazed by the fact that there is a place called Chevy Chase, Maryland?!

      Why? It was there first. In fact, Chevy Chase the comedian probably named himself after it; his birth name was Cornelius Crane Chase, you know.

      Chris Mattern
    • The campaign reform bills in the wake of Watergate and subsequently have ensured that there are more rich inexperienced candidates and created the PACs that are seen as such a blight. Banning soft money will ensure that all of these groups instead of giving the money to candidates will instead spend the money themselves to back the candidates they want without the candidate's contribution (or at least fingerprints). It is always the horrible corporations that are corrupting the world with money. Let's talk about Labor Unions, the AARP, the automakers (who are usually lobbying on the same side as the Autoworkers), the NRA, Christian Fundamentalist groups...
      Not all of these groups want the government to line their pockets, they have issues that they want addressed and they to influence how they are addressed. That is what democracy is about, and since there is a first ammendment the government is not going to tell us that their views should or should not be listened to
    • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @11:17AM (#3000007) Homepage Journal
      I'm not so sure about eliminating soft money. Let me take a contrarian view.

      The candidates take the money and use it to buy ads so they can reach the public. This is not a serious problem, it's what comes after that is a serious problem -- the quid pro quo that the donor expects.

      So the problem is not money, it is the influence of people who have money.

      Making money harder for candidates to raise doesn't mean the need for money goes away -- quite the contrary. The candidates have to work harder for every dollar. The marginal value of every additional dollar raised is higher to the candidate because of the general scarcity of funds. On the flip side, the cost of buying influence drops. Let me propose this law of political fundraising:

      To the degree to which campaign money is dear, the cost of political influence is cheap.

      As proof, let us suppose that Enron and Microsoft succeeded in buyin our federal government for a few paltry millions. This is unconscionable! It should cost billions to have this kind of influence; influence buying should require bribery on such a grand scale it either prices people out or requires a brazeness so affronting to the common votor that it becomes self defeating.

      We should also repeal the notion that corporations are persons with respect to campaign contributions -- it's a legal invitation to bribery.


        It's especially disgusting when you realize the actual costs to us collectively. For a few millions, corporations buy their way into legal tax and accounting loopholes and exceptions worth TENS OF BILLIONS of dollars. It's estimated that there are at least $50bn in taxes uncollected due to shuttling profits to offshore holding companies. I think the "economic stimulus package" Bush proposed gave almost that much away to a few big companies like IBM. It is also quite common for companies like Pepsi(!) to use "restructuring" to avoid paying any income tax.

        It would be cheaper to pay all of our Sentators and Congresspeople a million dollars a year and give a million dollar government sponsored budget to every candidate with more than 25% poll numbers in every race for each seat than to keep the current system of influence peddling.

        Hell, if you paid people that much, you could even forbid them from working after they retire and avoid the corporate board/Presidential cabinet recycling loop that is an even bigger bribery scam than campaign contributions.

  • by DickPhallus ( 472621 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @10:14AM (#2999620)
    In South Carolina, one of the states originally participating in the antitrust suit, Microsoft contributed $25,000 to attorney general Charles Condon shortly before his re-election in 1998. According to the chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party this was the largest unsolicited donation ever received. Three weeks after Condon won the election, South Carolina withdrew from the antitrust case.

    Hopefully this will get picked up by the AP or something. I mean this alone in most people should arouse serious feelings of mistrust for any company. Microsoft makes software. It shouldn't even be making *any* sorts of political contributions or anything. I seriously doubt that within three weeks the attorney general had suddenly decided MS wasn't violating any laws without persuasion

    If, at the very least, this and the enron scandal should be a wake up call for americans to consider political party financial reform.
    • Unfortunately, this data is presented in such isolation that one cannot really draw a conclusion about it.

      What was Condon's track record before? If Condon expected (as I imagine) to be softer on monopolies, then of course Microsoft would support him and then he would act his conscience and support the comprimise.

      What about other people who received contributions? Did they behave differently than expected once they received the contribution?

      Most "buying" of politicians is buying of elections (not all, however). If the public would vote properly, I would argue, this would not be a problem. Unfortunately, advertising works, especially against news outlets.
  • Amazing! Astounding! Unbelievable even!

    Yeah, it's underhanded, maybe even a bit immoral, the problem is, *IT'S NOT ILLEGAL*!!

    Both sides are throwing money at this, unsurprisingly MS is throwing more. First off, it would be a violation of their fiduciary responsiblities if they didn't defend themselves as vigrorously as possible. Heck, they've already crossed the line of good taste/credibility in their PR and lobying campaigns in the past, why stop now?

    If we really want to do something about activities like this we need to correct the current political system. Now, I'll just remain in the legions who complain about it and don't have a good solution (the problem is WAY beyond my meager geek abilities to grok). The one item of interest I have heard is that the current proposed reforms may have allowed people to donate MORE money instead of less.

    We vote with our pocketbooks, Microsoft votes with its. They just happen to have a slightly bigger one. Finally, it's ironic that the concept of "free" speech is used to defend monetary contributions...
    • If I were a shareholder of Microsoft, I would be very mad at this. Microsoft has never paid once cent in dividends and have made it known that they have no intention of doing so in the forseeable future. Instead, they have been retaining all profits. As a shareholder (which I am not, but if I was), I would be up in arms. This company has never paid me anything for investing in it and is now spending millions of dollars to buy off the government to "forget" about its illegal business practices.
    • by Kefaa ( 76147 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @11:17AM (#3000001)
      A poor example: if I were convicted of embezzling $1 million from a bank, and donated $100,000 to re-elect the prosecutor. It would be fair for the judge to question a surprisingly light sentence offered in a plea bargain.

      While it is not illegal, it is the reason for the Turney Act. If it can be shown they were using their money to influence the outcome of the penalty phase of the trial, the judge must consider it before accepting the agreement. In fact, it would be a reason to force the government to go back and renegotiate, or if the judge considered any outcome between the parties tainted, she could enforce her own.

      Based on past statements from her, I question if this formality has any influence at all. But, I want to give her the benefit of the doubt. It is not a perfect system, but it is a second check of the process.

  • Accountability (Score:2, Redundant)

    by joebp ( 528430 )
    $1.6 million [...] on efforts to influence the U.S. government. [...] Microsoft has been unable to comment.
    Wow, don't you love having a corrupt, completely unaccountable and evil entity altering and influencing your government and law makers?

    You think the US government would decline contributions from any and all companies who have had their questionable business behaviour legally challenged.

    Kinda makes sense, no? A lot like convicts being unable to cast a vote.

  • Nowhere near as much as Microsoft's did, by the way things look...

    Some people would consider giving large amounts of money to people with the potential power to ameliorate your legal troubles bribery -- luckily for Microsoft no-one considers this to be the case here. :/

    A sad statement on the American political system, as far as I'm concerned.
  • Let's try an experiment. I am going to give you $1m. Now, do you think I might, just possibly, want something in return...?
  • by Alien54 ( 180860 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @10:25AM (#2999690) Journal
    Shocked, simply shocked, I tell you.


    Of course you realise, this is the Microsoft philosophy applied to the legal field. Microsoft has had a history of buying up tecnologies and expertise, many of which have simply disappeared, never to see the light of day again.

    It is perhaps the only real innovation that I know of, to take their billions and buy up anything their legal opponents could use to convict them of their crimes.

    I am sure other big companies are taking notes. This convicts them even more in my mind.

    Like I have said before, every time I turn around there is something else that comes out and dirties their reputation in my eyes. Heck, if PR LapDogs like ZDNet are taking shots at MS, you know rats are starting to leave the ship.

  • Microsoft isn't doing anything expressly 'wrong' here.. No more so than a local Pizza Hut constantly calling a local Domino's to tie up their phone line so no customers could place an order. Classic.. Brilliant.. And thanks to past campaign contributions, perfectly legal..

    "You have to watch the violence Lisa.. Else you'll never become desensitized to it" -- Bart
    • Back when I was in a struggling band, I saw how record labels would buy up bands to prevent others from being able to get them. It's easy:
      1. Sign the band to a long term, exclusive contract.
      2. Take away all their rights to publish, record, and tour, without the label's explicit approval.
      3. Find a new band to screw over.

      This is totally common. The industry refers to it as "building a stable of artists".

      I'm sure it happens in lots of other places, too.
  • by Snowfox ( 34467 ) <> on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @10:28AM (#2999710) Homepage
    I just thought this was well worth a repeat:
    ... Microsoft has been hiring every political lobbyist, and every law firm, with anti-trust expertise and putting them to work on unrelated projects- anything to make them unavailable to work for critics of Microsoft.

    Now that's ballsy!

  • Wasted money... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pease1 ( 134187 ) <bbunge.ladyandtramp@com> on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @10:28AM (#2999711)
    Yes, I strive to be MS free, but I would have rather seen MS put this money into bug and security fixing than DC lawyers and lobbyists.

    What a waste of resources.

  • by gonar ( 78767 ) <sparkalicious@veri[ ].net ['zon' in gap]> on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @10:31AM (#2999726) Homepage
    The Best Government Money Can Buy (tm)

    The real problem here is the idea of "corporate personhood" which extends all the civil rights meant for people (including buying congressmen, senators, presidents and supreme court justices) to corporations.

    individual people, and and not-for-profit groups can not compete with the cash generated by a large corporation.

    there is one easy solution to this (unfortunately, it's not easy:).

    make all elections 100% publicly funded (I believe that england does this and each candidate can only spend something like 10,000 pounds), ban any political advertizing by any non candidate which mentions, depicts or hints where a particlar candidate or party stands on an issue.

    • individual people, and and not-for-profit groups can not compete with the cash generated by a large corporation.

      Behind every rich corporation is a bunch of rich people with a shared income source and each other's cell phone numbers. Making these people do things as coordinated individuals instead of a corporation will change nothing.

      make all elections 100% publicly funded (I believe that england does this and each candidate can only spend something like 10,000 pounds), ban any political advertizing by any non candidate which mentions, depicts or hints where a particlar candidate or party stands on an issue.

      So, force people to vote by how tall the politician is or how easy to remember his name is? Paid issue advertising is a good thing, it lets people know what a politician's history/position on an issue is, because the conventional media sure isn't any help there...

      Benjamin Coates
    • In related news, the library of congress has announced that all volumes and public records would be moved to XP platforms. "Even if they are crashed half the time, it's still much more accesible to people than their local library is.", said the newly appointed librarian. "We just love the auto update feature, " he continued ...

      And you thought the posters at the post office were just advertisement.

  • Just ask AOL and Intel how much of a contribution they make. Why do you think they didn't get sued? MS on the other hand started giving contributions too late and we all know what happened.
    • by Enry ( 630 )
      AOL and Intel don't have monopolies. There are local and national ISPs that are still thriving (Earthlink for one). Intel has competition in Motorola/Apple/IBM (PPC) and in AMD. Intel has not prevented OEMs from building AMD-based machines, so it's a LOT easier to buy an AMD-based machine than it is to buy a Linux-based. Why is that?
  • Corporations (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Grax ( 529699 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @10:32AM (#2999729) Homepage
    Personally I believe that the modern legal system is becoming more and more corporate and money controlled.

    The problem is that when a politician is elected due to large campaign contributions, he can't help but think that the contributions put him there rather than the votes of the citizens. He is elected, supposedly, to represent the needs of the citizens, but instead he ends up feeling like he is elected to represent the needs of his financiers (even an individual with good moral fiber will have this difficulty).

    A politician "should" be concerned first and foremost about how each decision will impact a private citizen. For example, how will DMCA impact the average consumer (loss of their fair use rights), how will extension of copyright laws affect the average individual (they will have access to no new public domain material in their lifetime), etc.

    It is getting to the point that the individuals need to hire lobbyists to plead their case with the politicians. Except that the politician was hired in the first place to be our lobbyist.
  • by wowbagger ( 69688 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @10:37AM (#2999755) Homepage Journal
    I assert that it is not campain finance reform, but campain reform that we need.

    Consider first why candidates need the huge amounts of money to be elected. They in effect need to run two entirely different campains - once for the primary, and once for the election. As a result, the cost more than doubles. Now, the thought is that once they've won the primary, their party will contribute to the main election. This is true but irrelevant to this discussion: the party must raise the money, and thus the need for money still is doubled.

    Now, I assert that anytime there is a demand, there will be a supply. Consider the origins of soft money - in the old days you could directly support your candidate with any amount of cash you wished. This was deemed a bad thing and so limits were placed on direct contributions. Bang - you now have created "soft money" that doesn't get covered under the hard money laws. Do you really expect that as long as candidates need money they won't find a way around soft money? And realize this: if you put up a piece on your personal web page about how you feel candidate X is [good|bad], that can be considered a "soft" contribution. Do you really want to give the government that power?

    Now, consider the 2000 elections. They were very close - so close that the actual vote difference between the candidates was lost in the noise floor. Was this really because the people were split 50/50 in liking Bush and Gore? Most people who voted for [Bush|Gore] did so because they disliked [Bush|Gore] marginally less than they disliked [Gore|Bush].

    I assert that we need to make the following two changes to the system:
    1) Allow anybody registered to vote to vote in any primary.
    2) Require a binding "none of the above" entry on all elections.

    Let's examine the results these two changes would have had on the 2000 US presidential election:
    1) By allowing anybody registered to vote in any primary, we would de-emphasize the importance of the primaries and pull the results of the primaries back from the extremes. I doubt that Bush would have won the Republican primary, and I doubt that Gore would have won the Democrat primary. Additionally, candidates such as McCain would have had a much better chance of getting support.
    2) By having a binding "none of the above", even if the election had been Bush/Gore, the bulk of people could have voted None Of the Above. Had None Of the Above won, then NOBODY in that election could hold the office, and there would have to be a new election. Ask yourself this: no matter your political affiliation, if you could have had a chance to block both Bush and Gore in favor of a shot at a better candidate, would you?

    I assert that with these two changes, the following things would happen:

    1) The third party candidates wouldn't run in the first race. Instead, they would encourage the voters to vote NOTA in the first race and knock the big boys out.
    2) The big parties would no longer be able to take this "This is our guy, take it or leave it" attitude. Thus, they would tend to field more moderate candidates.
    3) Because of 1 and 2, more people would feel their vote mattered, and we would get more turnout.
    4) Because the primaries could no longer be used to limit our choices, they would become unimportant and would fad away. Remember - the primaries are entirely outside the election process as described in the Constitution.

    Now, I don't assert that these changes would prevent lobbying by corporations. However, if a party knew that they could no longer annoint a golden child in the primaries and force them down our throats, they might be more aware of how the PEOPLE feel about an issue, rather than MONEY.

    • Wouldn't NOTA and a second election double the cost again?
    • A primary is the process used by private bodies (the political parties) to determine who will be their candidate for the election. A primary should not in any way be regulated, nor should any public funds or resources be used to support it (for example, public polling places), because it is not a public function. Nor should the governments of the states be allowed, as they are now, to force these private bodies to allow non-members to have a part in the selection process of the private bodies. Thus your argument does not hold water, though the intention behind it is good. I particularly like the idea of a binding none of the above vote, though I'm not sure that would really help third parties at all.
  • This simply continues to reinforce that Microsoft is a Marketing company and a Political interest group.... but NOT a software company.

    Instead of creating quality software that people would use because it is the most secure, efficient and capable software... they choose to write utter crap... and they hire marketers to tell us it's gold... hire political lobbiests to force policies and judicial decisions in their favor.

    When I started out in computing 26 years ago I never conceived that we would be as backwards as we are today. I never dreamed we would require a 1 gigahertz machine to run a windowing system poorly.... I never thought that instead of booting faster... that machines would boot slower and slower.

    Extremely disappointing that a marketing/political interest group has been allowed to pretty much destroy the computer industry.

    I guess we can hope and pray that MicroSoft goes the way of Enron... that it's dirty dealings are opened up to the world and that the world responds by simply refusing to have anything to do with the MicroSluts.

    • I guess that in your futuristic vision you dreamed of a world with light OS's requiring 386 cpu's. Who exactly would want the 1Ghz machines then?

      26 years in computing, you must be pretty old yet you don't seem to know that every big company gives huge contributions in order to avoid lawsuits.

      How did MS destroy the computer industry? They created it.
      • How did MS destroy the computer industry? They created it

        This is a common myth. MS has contributed almost nothing to the computing industry, certainly much less that the damage it has done by stiffling innovation and creativity by giving jobs to literally tens of thousands of shit programmers who would be unemployable in an industry where quality control existed. Flood the market with garbage and you end up with a garbage market.

        I don't know of a single thing MS has produced that didn't either suck (Windows, Outlook etc) or come from another company that they bought and released before making later versions suck (Flight Sim, Word etc.).

        I've been programming for 26 years and MS has done nothing except make life harder for people who want to produce quaility, working software that does its job by showing that such an attitude is unimportant in the face of marketing blitzes for crap products that don't work.

        The computing industry of 25 years ago was doing just fine without MS. Sure, IBM had a big grip on the business end of things but that was comming to an end as people like Lotus started up. IBM and Apple then helped MS by various insane business decisions and the rest is history.


  • $6M vs $38,000M (Score:4, Interesting)

    by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @10:37AM (#2999758)
    Microsoft is sitting on a $38 billion pile of cash. $6 million is 0.15 cents on the dollar.

    Ralph Nader says this cash pile is distortion of capitalism. Traditionally companies pay out dividends once they have grown into profitibility. The stockholders are being screwed.
    • The stockholders would be getting screwed if they were expecting to get a dividend. They have purchased stock knowing full well (or at least they should or else they shouldn't be buying stock) that MS has never paid a divident, nor are they expected or legally obligated to. If the stockholders don't like it, then sell, and buy GE.
      • Actually, Microsoft is legally obligated to pay dividends. They are only allowed to retain a reasonable percentage of earnings for expansion, etc. The rest is required to go back to the shareholders.
    • Ralph Nader says this cash pile is distortion of capitalism. Traditionally companies pay out dividends once they have grown into profitibility. The stockholders are being screwed.

      Despite the fact that Ralph Nader is a git, he has a point here. Unfortunately, companies now manage to stock value, rather than dividend payout. As a result, companies make decisions that can result in them losing money, but still returning value to their investors (by increasing stock price) until the bottom falls out, and the stock drops precipitously. Of course, they only do this because it's what the investors want. Investors want their stock to increase in value, so they can make money selling it, rather than for the stocks to return a cash dividend to them. Part of the reason is taxation laws which tax dividends more heavily than capital gains, and part of the reason is sheer shortsightedness on the part of the investors.

    • Re:$6M vs $38,000M (Score:3, Informative)

      by schon ( 31600 )
      Traditionally companies pay out dividends once they have grown into profitibility.

      The reason that MS doesn't pay dividends is because Bill Gates is a major shareholder.

      If they payed dividends, then Bill will have to pay a HUGE tax bill.
  • by Odinson ( 4523 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @10:45AM (#2999815) Homepage Journal
    Is that no other news sources seem to be carrying this until now.

    Are they afraid or just not that observant? This is definatly newsworthy.

    The ability to companies to donate money to politicians but shield which politician it is going to to is what is so evil about soft money. At least in the 20s the press could drag a politician through the mud based on his own specific donations. But what would the headline be now? at worst..."Republican party takes donations from Microsoft."

    Campain money IS NOT SPEECH. It's just the opposite.

    • Are they afraid or just not that observant? This is definatly newsworthy.

      Large company lobbies government for favorable reform? This is news?

      No. Its not news. Its not newsworthy. Its just another day.

      Campaign money IS SPEECH.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @11:15AM (#2999990)

    As a Canadian, reading the reactions of various slashdotters, I find it very interesting.

    We as a tech community are so ready to shout that Microsoft is evil. You guys are forgetting that this is the American way (which applies to us up too...). Remember those Railroad Tycoons, the Oil Tycoons? The Rockafellers of the world are still around. Why do you think Texas has so many industries that could have been put elsewhere? (Count how many military bases that there are in Texas?)Prominent Texans ensured that Texas was given the goods, and in our present system of government they did not only what they could, but what was expected and did what benefited Texans and especially those prominant citizens. (Sorry Texans, but its the only example I know of as an ignorant canuck ;)

    Using money to influence government policy is how government has functioned for a long time. Remember in Ancient Rome, being in position of political power made you rich as businesses petitioned for your support. This is not going to change anytime soon unless we as a society decide that is unacceptable.

    America is the land of the free. Its the land of who has got more $$$. The more dough you have, the more freedom you have to do as you wish for good or ill.

    Don't piss on M$ because they are doing what is in their best interests and that they have the freedom to do so. Its disgusting that they did do it, but I am much more revolted that the so called democracy of the world is nothing more than auction and that THIS seems news to people . We have to as a society against this truly undemocratic behaviour.

    Hopefully this will serve as a case in point for seriously look at our Politicians and their Political Parties and how they govern us.

    Though I suppose it could be worse... at least we pretend to have democracy.

    Don't mind me though I am just a jaded youth....

  • Not because Microsoft's giving so much (I'm more worried about movie/record/media lobbies), but because only has Microsoft down for contributing $1,167,162 []. If they really contributed $6 million, that's $4.8-ish million that couldn't keep track of, and if they're losing that much with MS, I can only shudder to think how much more other companies might be contributing.
  • This is from


    A bandaged Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., takes part in a Washington news conference to discuss campaign finance reform, Monday, Feb. 11, 2002. Last week, McCain had a cancerous lesion removed from the left side of his nose which was diagnosed as the earliest form of melanoma and was removed. (AP
    Photo/Stephen J. Boitano)

    One Last Push: Call Now!

    Thank you to all those who phoned and faxed Members of Congress over the past week and urged them to support the Shays-Meehan bill. We've heard many reports of offices flooded with calls on the issue, but the fight is not over.

    Recently, the republican party and its leadership stepped up the effort to fight meaningful reform. If you are a Republican, please make sure and mention that fact when you call or fax the following list of Members. Let them know that this issue is important to you and that the passage of Shays-Meehen is necessary in order to restore integrity to America.

    Speaker Hastert has declared the campaign finance reform fight "Armageddon" -- and true reform won't come easy. The vote is Wednesday--and we need to keep the pressure on. Below, we have included a list of Members of Congress that we are asking you to call or fax. Please let these members of Congress know that they must vote for Shays-Meehan. In addition, let them know to vote against the poison pill amendments and the sham Ney Bill.

    Please call or fax the following list of Representatives:

    Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL-6) (202) 225-4921 - (202) 225-2082 fax
    Rep. Elton Gallegy (R-CA-23) (202) 225-5811 - (202) 225-1100 fax
    Rep. Doug Ose (R- CA-3) (202) 225-5716 - (202) 226-1298 fax
    Rep. Michael Collins (R -GA-3) (202) 225-5901 - (202) 225-2515 fax
    Rep. Nathan Deal (R-GA-9) (202) 225-5211 - (202) 225-8272 fax
    Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL-20) (202) 225-5271 - (202) 225-5880 fax
    Rep. Kenny Hulshof (R -MO-9) (202) 225-2956 - (202) 226-0326 fax
    Rep. Nick Smith (R-MI-7) (202) 225-6276 - (202) 225-6281 fax
    Rep. Mark Kennedy (R-MN-2) (202) 225-2331 - (202) 225-6475 fax
    Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ-2) 202) 225-6572 - (202)225-3318 fax
    Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ-11) (202) 225-5034 - (202) 225-3186 fax
    Rep. Jim Saxton (R-NJ-3) (202) 225-4765 - (202) 225-0778 fax
    Rep. Mike Ferguson (R-NJ-7) (202) 225-5361 - (202) 225-9460 fax
    Rep. John McHugh (R-NY-24) (202)225-4611 - (202)226-0621 fax
    Rep. Sue Kelly (R-NY-19) (202) 225-5441 - (202) 225-3289 fax
    Rep. Paul Gillmor (R-OH-5) (202) 225-6405 - (202)225-1985 fax
    Rep. Ralph Regula (R-OH-16) (202) 225-3876 - (202)225-3059 fax
    Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-OH-19) (202) 225-5731 - (202) 225-3307 fax
    Rep. Melissa Hart (R-PA-4) (202) 225-2565 - (202) 226-2274 fax
    Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA-7) (202) 225-2011 - (202) 225-8137 fax
    Rep. John Duncan (R-TN-2) (202) 225-5435 - (202)225-6440 fax
    Rep. Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV-2) (202) 225-2711 - (202) 225-7856 fax

    Please also call your Representative at 1-800-660-8244, even if you did so last week. Urge them to support Shays-Meehan and oppose the sham Ney bill and poison pill amendments.

    The House of Representatives uses an e-mail system called "Write Your Rep". You can send e-mails only to your Representative by entering your zip code into the e-mail form -

    Will you also send this alert to a friend - or two or five - and ask them to do the same? Let's win true reform THIS WEEK.

    Thank you for your continued support.
  • I can't believe that /. as such a huge promoter of 1st amendment rights, doesn't see the relationship that limiting or banning soft money has to limiting the freedom of speech.

    Here's the deal. If I pay for an advert in support of electing Jimmy Schlessenbaum, that money is counted as a soft money donation to Mr Schlessenbaum. If I give him the money for the ad, and his campaign pays for it, that's a hard contribution and it gets handled under the existing rules and limitations.

    This is the problem. I have a right to express my opinion of who to vote for. If we start saying that there are limits on soft money contributions, then we're volunteering for legalized limits of individuals to express their opinions.

    For a better description of this, see This article [].

    I don't like the fact that corporations can buy elections. But I'd rather have an undamaged 1st amendment, than limits on soft contributions.
  • Perhaps Microsoft should be investigated for monopolizing the influence-peddling business.

The absent ones are always at fault.