Posts tagged ‘Jack Abramoff’

When Microsoft Was Forced to Join the Corporate State

Via Radley Balko.  He is quoting Tim Carney in turn

People think money drives politics. It doesn’t. Money is merely the vehicle. Power drives Washington. As Carney points out, Hatch has spent a good deal of his time on the Judiciary Committee targeting Microsoft. So he wasn’t mad that the company wasn’t giving him money—they weren’t giving to his opponents, either. Hatch was angry that the company wasn’t acknowledging that it needs Washington, that it needs people like him. He finds that offensive. So people like Hatch make companies like Google need people like Hatch.

More:

 . . . it grated on Hatch and other senators that Gates didn’t want to want to play the Washington game. Former Microsoft employee Michael Kinsley, a liberal, wrote of Gates: “He didn’t want anything special from the government, except the freedom to build and sell software. If the government would leave him alone, he would leave the government alone.”

This was a mistake. One lobbyist fumed about Gates to author Gary Rivlin: “You look at a guy like Gates, who’s been arrogant and cheap and incredibly naive about politics. He genuinely believed that because he was creating jobs or whatever, that’d be enough.”

Gates was “cheap” because Microsoft spent only $2 million on lobbying in 1997, and its PAC contributed less than $50,000 during the 1996 election cycle.

“You can’t say, ‘We’re better than that,’ ” a Microsoft lobbyist told me on Friday. “At some point, you get too big, and you can’t just ignore Washington.”

You know what happens next . . .

After the Hatch hearings, Microsoft complied. Its PAC increased spending fivefold in each of the next two elections. In the 2010 elections, Microsoft’s PAC contributed $2.3 million to House and Senate candidates. The PAC has contributed the maximum $10,000 to each of Hatch’s last two campaigns.

Back before the antitrust case, Microsoft’s tiny lobbying contingent sat in the company’s local sales office in Chevy Chase. Since the Hatch hearings, Gates’ company has poured more than $100 million into K Street’s economy, hiring up members of congress and Capitol Hill staff, many of whom then became top fundraisers — such as Republican Jack Abramoff and Democrat Steve Elmendorf.

And of course now that Microsoft has a strong Washington presence, it uses its influence to lobby the government to harass its competitors. Like Google, which must then open its own Washington lobbying outfit in response. And the cycle starts all over again. (If you’re really on your game, you then hire the government regulators you’ve lobbied to investigate your rival to come work for you.)

Money is not the problem in politics, and is not the root of the corporate state.  Power is.  Money in politics will never go away as long as the government has the power to micromanage winners and losers.  Take the power away, and the money would disappear.

Great Coburn Press Release

This came to me via email a few minutes ago from Tom Coburn's office:

U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) today called on Senate and House leaders from
both parties to make the elimination of earmarking, or pork politics, the
centerpiece of any reforms considered in the wake of the Jack Abramoff
scandal.  Abramoff has described the appropriations committees, and, by
extension, the appropriations process, as an "earmark favor
factory" in which influence and votes are bought and sold.   

"Congress does not need to reform the lobbying industry as much
as it needs to reform itself.  The willingness of politicians to abuse the
appropriations process through earmarking has caused the explosive growth in
the lobbying industry and encouraged the excesses illustrated by the Jack
Abramoff scandal.   It is not enough for our leaders to propose
reforms that might promote the appearance, but not necessarily the practice, of
ethical behavior," Dr. Coburn said. 

"For the American people, the Abramoff scandal is only beginning to
connect the dots between politicians, individual earmarks, lobbyists and
campaign contributions.  Behind each of the 14,000 earmarks Congress
approved last year is a story that many politicians will not want their
constituents to hear.  If Congress fails to enact meaningful reforms that
attack this climate of corruption at its source the public will, and should,
take reform into its own hands in November.

Keep up the good work.  I hope he doesn't find a horse's head in his bed.