INTERNATIONAL: Microsoft denies WSJ's cash for comment claim

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.

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