Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) has for years been one of the Senate's most outspoken critics of the business tactics employed by Microsoft Corp. Now, a group of Microsoft's most bitter corporate enemies are holding a Silicon Valley fund-raiser for Hatch's presidential campaign.
Hatch won many friends in the software industry when his Senate Judiciary Committee held a series of scathing hearings on Microsoft's tactics. Last month, after a federal judge ruled against the firm in the first round of an antitrust trial, Hatch said he wanted to hold more hearings, this time to explore how to rein in Microsoft.
A Hatch campaign spokesman said the fund-raiser Friday at a Palo Alto restaurant is not a reward for his anti-Microsoft efforts.
"He's not calling in a debt," said spokesman Jeff Flint, noting Hatch's work on other high-tech issues such as the research and development tax credit and patent reform. "They support his philosophy and his leadership in promoting the high-tech economy."
Hatch also has tapped one of the firms putting on the fund-raiser for assistance on another front. His campaign recently asked America Online Inc. to fly him around on its corporate jet. Although the company agreed, Flint said, "the jet wasn't available at the times we requested."
While Hatch's presidential prospects are remote, his chairmanship of the powerful Judiciary panel has enhanced his ability to make the race. For example, he has used an executive jet owned by pharmaceutical giant Schering-Plough Corp. at the same time his committee is considering the company's proposal to extend the patent on its lucrative drug Claritin.
So far this year, Texas Gov. George W. Bush (R) and former New Jersey senator Bill Bradley (D) have easily lapped other presidential candidates in Silicon Valley fund-raising.
But Hatch has drawn an impressive roster of e-economy executives to sponsor Friday's fund-raiser--a list consisting almost entirely of companies embracing the Justice Department's antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft.
They include Eric Schmidt of Novell Inc.--based in Hatch's home state of Utah--as well as Scott McNealy of Sun Microsystems Inc., Jeff Henley of Oracle Corp., George Vradenburg of AOL and Larry Wolfe of Intuit Inc. Another is Andrew Steinberg of Sabre Inc., an airline reservation company that isn't even based in Silicon Valley, but is a vigorous opponent of Microsoft's tactics.
Hatch and his Senate staff worked closely with these firms in mounting anti-Microsoft hearings over the last two years. A former Hatch chief of staff, Kevin McGuiness, went on to become a lobbyist for ProComp, an organization formed by a number of these companies to pressure Congress and the Justice Department to crack down on Microsoft. Now McGuiness is Hatch's campaign manager and helped organize the Silicon Valley event.
Hatch raised more than $60,000 at another Silicon Valley fund-raiser in 1998, for his Senate reelection campaign. Some high-tech executives have curried favor with him in other ways, too. At Hatch's request, James Barksdale--a staunch Microsoft opponent who was CEO of the software firm Netscape Communications Corp. before it was acquired by America Online--recently donated $100,000 to a pediatric AIDS foundation.
At the same time, Hatch has not let up in his criticism of Microsoft. Last month, after U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson released his anti-Microsoft findings of fact in the antitrust case, Hatch called it "an important victory for the rule of law over political muscle." In a GOP presidential debate in New Hampshire on Dec. 2, he accused the firm of "crushing" competitors.
A congressional staff member knowledgeable about high-tech issues said software executives are raising funds for Hatch because they are "very grateful to him for raising the issues he did about Microsoft."