Oracle plays campaign funding by the book

The best politicians money can buy

Four years after landing in hot water over for controversially funding US state politicians, Oracle is taking steps to ensure its executives stay squeaky-clean.

The company has admitted it is helping executive officers comply with reporting obligations under federal, state and local law over their personal donations to politicians.

Since late in its fiscal year 2006, which ended last May, Oracle has been "assisting with the preparation and submission of campaign contribution filings." Oracle is spending $1,000 per executive each year, the company said.

"The [Oracle] compensation committee believes there is a benefit to Oracle in ensuring that its executive officers comply with these reporting requirements given the potential cost of this program," Oracle told shareholders in its latest proxy filing.

With state and Senate elections looming this fall, the Center for Responsive Politics reports employees from Oracle have so far forked over $159,530.

Oracle is no stranger to the US political lobbying machine and the controversy that can ensue when mixing funding with business. Its political contributions came into question during 2001 and 2002 when the state of California awarded Oracle a $95m database contract after then governor Gray Davis's re-election campaign received a $25,000 donation from Oracle. Then state attorney general Bill Lockyer, who was probing the California deal, himself returned a $50,000 Oracle donation to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Oracle at the time justified contributions saying it was important for the Silicon Valley giant to participate in the state's political process. The company is not alone, though, when it comes to priming the US poltical pump.

During the last eight years companies across the tech sector have increased their contributions to politicians and officials' election campaigns, labor unions and other organizations whose job is to lobby Congress and federal agencies.

The computing and PC sector spent a combined total of $81m on lobbying during 2005. Microsoft spent $8.7m, IBM came second on $7.2m, Intel third on $4m, and Oracle was fourth on $2.9m according to the Center for Responsive Politics' web site, Opensecrets.org.

Telephone companies, who have been lobbying politicians locally and nationally to kill city-funded metropolitan WiFi networks, came second in terms of overall contributions, totaling $56m. Leading the pack was AT&T followed by Bell South, Verizon, SBC and then Sprint.®

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