NEW YORK: Microsoft and its lead lobbying firm Century Strategies
have been accused of offering payments to individuals to write letters
and make calls to lawmakers on their behalf.
Both parties deny the allegations - made by the Wall Street Journal last
week - that Cent-ury Strategies and its network of PR and lobbying
partners 'generate grassroots (pro-Microsoft) comments for cash'.
The article, apparently quoting a leaked memorandum, detailed amounts
paid: 'A letter to a member of Congress from a mayor or a local
Republican Party official is worth dollars 200 ... a 'premier' letter or
visit by a fundraiser known to the lawmaker ... can be worth up to
dollars 450 apiece,' it said.
Microsoft spokesperson Rick Miller said: 'It's no secret that Century
Strategies is working for us, and it's no secret it is using fairly
standard grassroots procedures. But the firm pays people to co-ordinate
the letter writing, not to actually write the letters.'
While the practice of paying people to correspond is not illegal,
American League of Lobbyists' ethics chair Wright Andrews said it is
unethical: 'In 30 years doing this, I have never heard of paying
individuals to communicate with lawmakers. It's almost like buying
votes,' he said.
In 1998, the LA Times ran an expose on Microsoft's grassroots efforts to
generate opinion pieces, editorial comment and letters to the editor,
leading to widespread criticism.