Microsoft Corp. circulated a memo to members of the House and Senate on Friday trying to counteract a Washington Post article that morning about the giant software company's effort to lobby Congress to reduce funding for the Justice Department's antitrust division.
Microsoft, which has been defending itself in court against federal antitrust charges, had sent lobbyists out to buttonhole lawmakers and had brought a variety of nonprofit groups to its Redmond, Wash., headquarters for entertaining and briefings. The article noted that if the company was successful in cutting the antitrust funds, there would be little or no impact on the litigation against Microsoft, although administration officials feared a big funding cut in light of the increase in corporate merger activity in the past year.
"The debate is not about the DoJ's budget," the memo said. "The more important question is whether the DoJ managed this case in an appropriate way, and do Members, outside organizations, and, yes, Microsoft have the right to raise questions. We believe the answer is yes."
The memo also said that outside organizations "have been speaking up about the Microsoft case for years, and this budget issue for months. The Post story seems to imply that certain groups suddenly took this stand after a visit to the Microsoft Redmond campus. Microsoft, of course, routinely invites Members, hill staff, reporters, think tanks, and other organizations to visit our campus and see the technology and visit with the people that are helping us develop better software."
Further, Microsoft said, "If this industry becomes overly regulated, we will jeopardize America's economic leadership in this area."
The memo didn't help. Four days later, House and Senate negotiators agreed to give the antitrust division $110 million, a 12 percent spending increase.
But Microsoft isn't disheartened, says spokesman Rick Miller. "It was never about the money. We're not going to stop. . . . We're going to make our case."
Railing at the Radicals
Ralph Neas won't become president of People for the American Way until Jan. 3, but he already is traveling the country meeting with People For folks and spreading the liberal gospel against the "Radical Right" at fund-raisers.
"Indeed, the Radical Right is growing more powerful. It is a vast conspiracy with a long-term sophisticated strategy and an astronomical amount of money to fund that strategy," he planned to tell People For's Los Angeles fund-raising dinner last night. "The Right already controls the leadership of the U.S. Congress," he said in remarks prepared for the event, warning of the "very real possibility that in January of 2001, the Right may control all three branches of government. . . ."
"To prevent this catastrophe, we must work together. We must educate. We must organize. And we must mobilize."
Neas is a former Republican who led the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, helping to shape the major civil rights legislation of the 1980s and early 1990s. He led the successful campaign by the conference and others to block the nomination of Robert H. Bork to the Supreme Court, one of the epic battles in Washington. Switching to the Democratic Party, Neas unsuccessfully challenged Rep. Constance A. Morella (R-Md.) for Congress last year.
Longtime adversary Clint Bolick, litigation director for the Institute for Justice, said yesterday that he "commends" People For for signing Neas, who will be "a very potent voice" for the group.
Said Bolick: "He's really the very best I've encountered on the other side. He was our nemesis on racial preferences and now he's our nemesis on school choice."
A Career Progresses
Leaving People for the American Way: Michael Lux, who was political director of People For and, before that, special assistant in the Office of Public Liaison early in the Clinton White House, is joining forces with lobbyist Thomas Sheridan to establish Progressive Strategies.
Although the company won't do any actual lobbying, it intends to help "progressive" nonprofit organizations and political action committees to develop issue-based campaigns, including field and Internet organizing, fund-raising and media relations.
Sheridan, who has lobbied on behalf of a number of AIDS organizations, will continue his governmental affairs company, the Sheridan Group, which will have a "strategic partnership" with Progressive Strategies.
Waiting in the Lobby
With the dissolution of Republican Lamar Alexander's bid for president, the Tennessean's campaign manager, J. Mark Tipps, is doing some lobbying for a couple of Nashville companies while he figures out what to do next.
A solo lawyer based in Nashville, Tipps recently registered to lobby for INPHACT, a tele-radiology company, on Medicare and Medicaid issues, and for Corrections Corp. of America, which builds and manages prison facilities.
"This will allow me to decide what I'm going to do," Tipps said.
Before the campaign, Tipps was deputy chief counsel for the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee's special investigation of campaign finance in 1997.
Stacey Sylvia has arrived at APCO Associates from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, where she was deputy political director. She has been named a manager in APCO's issues management practice.