MS spends $250k to shore up ‘Most Net-Friendly Senator’

Or Senator H-1B, as you might style him...

Microsoft's recently discovered interest in politics has resulted in substantial, disguised company backing for embattled Michigan Republican Senator Spencer Abraham, today's Wall Street Journal reports. By a strange coincidence two major issues pushed by Abraham, H-1B visas for IT workers and the high tech business itself, are both dear to Microsoft's heart.

Writing in IntellectualCapital.com Bill Bellenger earlier this year described these as "the only two issues on which Abraham's work has been noteworthy." Abraham looked in trouble a few months back, but is now pulling ahead of challenger Debbie Stabenow. According to the WSJ, Microsoft has channeled "soft money" contributions through the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, which fronts the Abraham ads Microsoft has helped to pay for.

Other IT firms, including Intel, have backed him strongly, and earlier this year the Information Technology Industry Council, a grouping of most of the biggies, named him and Senator Christopher Dodd (Democrat, Connecticut) High Tech Legislators of the Year on the strength of their H-1B work.

Abraham doesn't seem to have been anything like as strident in support of Microsoft against the DoJ as Senator Slade Gorton (Republican, Washington State), but there are a couple of nuggets that point to him being on the side of freedom and innovation. He was, for example, one of the three senators who wrote to Janet Reno in 1998 accusing the DoJ of encouraging "foreign governments to use their antitrust laws against Microsoft." The technology section of his campaign site is however silent on antitrust, although he proudly boast his Yahoo! Most Net-Friendly Member of the Senate Award.

The WSJ says that Abraham got $250,000 from Microsoft in August, and that more has been paid since then. His campaign manager is quoted as saying the Senator is proud of the support from Microsoft and Steve Ballmer.

Abraham has been able to get Microsoft to open its wallet for other purposes too. In May of this year he reported that he had got Microsoft to make a "major technology grant" for the Clinton (sic) Township Senior Center in Grand Rapids. ®

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