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Back Redmond and win an iPaq? Strange but true, this was indeed the offer made to a select mailing list of likely Microsoft supporters by lobbying group Americans for Technology Leadership, according to an AP report today. The offer was made in a mailshot to attendees of this week's Conservative Political Action Conference, a likely bastion of Microsoft supporters if ever we've seen one.

ATL, it appears, is utterly unabashed by the matter, with executive director Jim Prendergast arguing that the iPaq is just a tool to get people involved, and certainly not a bribe. ATL has been soliciting pro-Microsoft letters as part of the public comment process on the proposed MS-DoJ settlement. Comment on the subject had to be with the DoJ by yesterday, and the DoJ now has 30 days to publish it in the Federal Register (no relation).

'Publish' may however be something of an exagerration. During the trial years when it wanted Microsoft to look bad the DoJ merrily (if somewhat bulkily) posted PDFs of practically everything, but now it seems not to be inclined to go any further than the bare legal minimum of Federal Register publication. But as the Federal Register itself has an online presence, we shouldn't consider the comment entirely buried.

Although the deadline for comment has now expired, ATL's site (which, humorously, seems not to work with The Register's copy of Opera) was still soliciting comment today. No mention of iPaqs in the online form however, you'll be saddened to hear. ATL describes itself as "a broad-based coalition of technology professionals, consumers, and organizations dedicated to limiting government regulation of technology."

Its founding members include Microsoft, Staples, CompUSA, usual suspects the Association for Competitive Technology and Citizens Against Government Waste, the Small Business Survival Committee, the 60Plus Association (Conservative Grey Panthers for Redmond?), and a couple of Microsoft partners. It's difficult to figure out what it is the other founder, Cityscape Filmworks, does, but we note that it managed to put in an appearance at an ACT "career program" as part of a national "Techies Day" last October. Small world. ®

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