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$8m "bought" the Government - claim

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Sun boss Scott McNealy gave the DoJ his lengthiest harangue at the company's AGM for stockholders yesterday.

"I finally got my PR team to let me unleash on this," said McNealy, who didn't waste the opportunity, describing the settlement as "disgraceful and unconscionable and beyond belief."

McNealy ran through a list of proposed mergers that had been blocked by the Department of Justice on Antitrust grounds:

"SunGard wanted to buy Comdisco - a bankrupt company, one in Chapter 11 - and they were not allowed to merge. Like there's not a million trillion datacentres out there now?"

That case is actually far from done: Hewlett Packard has agreed to buy Comdisco, but SunGard is still negotiating with the DoJ to be allowed to up its bid.

"Staples was not allowed to merge with Office Depot. Did you all wonder, where are we going to buy our paper now? Was that so dangerous that we did not allow them to merge?"

"And we left a 7 to nothing monopolist get off: they didn't even pay court fees," he said. "The fix is in, and done."

"Get hold of your State's Attorney General, send a note to The President - he oughta to be outraged," said McNealy.

"It's not [the Attorney General's] job to say 'I don't like those laws, I'm not going to enforce them'".

McNealy devoted much of his hour talking about Sun, but had a few predictable barbs for the competitors. HP/Compaq? "I'm really worried about that merger … not going through". But then it doesn't matter, because "both companies have left the computer business." As has Dell: "they're a grocery store who understands the only value you add to a banana is a bruise."

The Sun boss declared himself "too patriotic" to wonder if $8 million in campaign contributions could have let Microsoft off the hook. And left the allegation hanging there.

Sun has not been short of lobbying itself on the subject, but he's surely mistaken in raising the suspicion that campaign contributions bought Microsoft a refuge from justice.

As we said here, it's much deeper than that, it's ideological. It's going to take much more than $8m of soft money to change the prevailing view that government needs to get out of the way of business, no matter how it breaks the law. ®

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