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US political parties awash with Microsoft ‘gifts’

'Purchasing influence and access', report claims

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Microsoft has dished out more than $16 million in political handouts over the last three years - and the software giant has upped such contributions since its legal wrangles with the US government.

It is now ranked number five in the world as a soft-money contributor to political parties. The recipients of this cash include federal candidates, national conventions and the national parties, according to The Microsoft Playbook study.

"Since the Department of Justice investigation began, Microsoft has jumped feet first into the Washington big-money game, purchasing influence and access, and bringing into this arena the same zeal it brought to its software business," said Common Cause president Scott Harshbarger.

"The software giant has become a soft-money giant."

Highlights from the study include:

The fact that Microsoft's political contributions topped $3.3 million between January 1997 and June 2000 - more than $2.6 million in unlimited soft money donations to the national political parties and more than $710,000 in political action contributions.

The company provided goods and services worth around $1 million each to both the 2000 Democratic and Republican national conventions.

From 1997 to 1999, Microsoft spent more than $10.5 million for lobbying in Washington. "Microsoft has aggressively sought influence with both parties in Congress, and the camps of both Governor George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore," according to Common Cause.

Over the last two years, Microsoft has forked out more than $750,000 to several trade groups, think tanks and foundations that have spoken out in its defence.

What's more, Microsoft has, so far, dished out the most cash in this round of the Presidential election than any other computer equipment and services company.

According to The Centre For Responsive Politics, the company has donated a total of $2.8 million, followed by AOL with $1.2 million and Cisco $664,000.

The full version of the Common Cause report can be found here. ®

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