Mr. Gates Goes to Washington
Marshall, Joshua Micah, The American Prospect
Microsoft's borrowing of NRA lobbying tactics reveals the Republican tilt--and the naivete--of its political strategy.
When The New York Times revealed in April that Microsoft had hired Ralph Reed, the onetime executive director of the Christian Coalition, to lobby George W. Bush on the company's behalf, the story that generated all the attention was Reed's obvious, if bizarre, conflict of interest--he was also a paid adviser to Bush's presidential campaign. But the underlying story, largely overlooked at the time, was something bigger: the increasingly Republican can tilt of Microsoft's presence in Washington, D.C.
Not only has Microsoft hired a disproportionate share of its lobbyists from the Republican side of the aisle; it has also showered money on a host of political advocacy groups aligned with the GOP's most antitax and antigovernment wing. (A mere sampling of the groups now feeding at the Microsoft trough: Americans for Tax Reform, the Cato Institute, and the Heritage Foundation.) But perhaps the most striking thing about Microsoft's campaign to gin up grassroots opposition to the government's proposed breakup of the company is how strongly it resembles the tactics deployed by Big Tobacco and the NRA.
Pioneers of corporate-financed grass-roots (often called "Astroturf") organizing within the tobacco industry and the NRA have perfected ways of imitating genuine groundswells of public support or opposition. The most common tactics include launching and funding front groups to support a client's cause; paying political consultants to generate phone calls and letters to politicians; and, perhaps most effective, using phone banks and highly targeted calling campaigns to manipulate public opinion.
Which brings us back …
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Publication information: Article title: Mr. Gates Goes to Washington. Contributors: Marshall, Joshua Micah - Author. Magazine title: The American Prospect. Volume: 11. Issue: 16 Publication date: July 17, 2000. Page number: 10. © 1999 The American Prospect, Inc. COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group.
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