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Gates email rallies troops to target congress candidates

Political Action Committee channels money to candidates 'sensitive to IT issues'

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The MacOS Rumors site has published the text of what appears to be an email to Microsoft staff from Bill Gates, rallying the troops to help fund a campaign to target "only those key individuals who can make a difference" in next year's US congressional elections. That means helping candidates "who are sensitive to IT issues." The email looks genuine, as it describes the kind of actions you'd expect Microsoft to be taking under current circumstances. It was sent out to the Microsoft Corporation Political Action Committee (MCPAC) in the middle of last week, and solicits up to $5,000 a year ($10,000 if your spouse is also feeling riled) in contributions from Microsoft staff. MCPAC isn't exactly a well-known organisation, but it's perfectly legitimate, and this kind of set-up is pretty common in US corporations. Companies aren't allowed to contribute directly to the election campaigns of federal candidates, so PACs are used to pool individual contributions from employees. MCPAC was formed in 1988, and according to the email raised over $500,000 for the 1998 election cycle. Now, says Gates: "There is a high-stakes battle today over the proper role of the government in the Information Age between those who desire a positive, limited role, and those who want an interventionist, regulatory role that stifles innovation in the marketplace... With the critical 2000 elections just one year away, and the increased political activity of our competitors, your support is more important than ever." There's a shopping list that pretty much tallies with the official Microsoft one, with antitrust at the head: "MCPAC specifically targets only those key individuals who will make a difference on issues such as competition, encryption, intellectual property rights, privacy, Internet regulation and taxation, immigration, telecommunications, and other issues that are important to our business and industry." There's also a little more light shed on the round of meetings Microsoft staff have been having with presidential candidates, most prominently the on-off-on again but public meeting with Al Gore. "The MCPAC hosted every major presidential candidates on campus and more than 300 events, each of which has provided opportunities to better educate federal policy makers." Gates suggests contributions of $1,000, $2,500 or anything up to the annual maximum of $5,000. At those levels the number of Microsoft participants funding the 1998 budget of $500,000 would seem improbably low, so we'd guess he's trying to up the stakes pretty substantially from a much lower average contribution. ® Full text at MacOS Rumors

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