Proximity to criminals
Every now and then we come across the Abramoff connection to Microsoft, e.g. [1, 2, 3]. Some people have done all the heavy lifting and explored those relationships, so in spirit of keeping up with Microsoft pressure groups, e.g. [1, 2, 3], below we append mostly the findings of others. We shall use these as cohesive point of reference in the future. Much of it predates the birth of this Web site, but it must not be ignored for reasons that shall become apparent later.
Microsoft Management’s unbridled love of the corrupt GOP/RNC is no surprise, as Microsoft’s top management includes some of President Bush’s more prominent fund raisers. Microsoft’s ex-CFO John Connors, and Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer, are both prominent Bush supporters.
Only recently Microsoft had to “fire” consultant fundamentalist christian Ralph Reed after a public outcry over Reed’s influence in local politics via Microsoft. Additionally it appears that Ralph Reed was on the Microsoft Payroll at the same time he headed up President Bush’s SE 2004 Campaign.
Another Microsoft “consultant”, the anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist, who also specializes in picking the economic bones of countries we invade, is still on the payrolls of Microsoft as far as we know.
We last summarised Microsoft’s tax evasion practices right here. Some of the more interesting bits of analysis came from Tom Adelstein, an author and former editor of LXer. The first part was embargoed but eventually published with additional material.
As a news organization, we first reported back in June that we had suspicions that ties existed between Jack Abramoff and Microsoft. Our initial report tied together research when the Washington Post disclosed that Preston Gates had paid an invoice for a trip made by Tom DeLay to play gold in Scotland. (Sorry that’s a Freudian slip. I meant golf.)
Abramoff’s guilty plea of last week helps us make our case and allows us to demonstrate our suspicions regarding Microsoft’s ties to the Bush administration. The guilty plea also allows us to question whether Microsoft received favorable treatment by the Bush Justice department by paying Abramoff and his aides and partners, starting with Ralph Reed.
There are some more details here.
A dispute that has kept the House Ethics Committee from considering Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s activities may have ramifications for Microsoft. When one begins to untangle the remarkable political organization created by Microsoft and lobbyists Preston, Gates Ellis et al, you find some uncanny coincidences.
The ethics committee, the House’s mechanism for enforcing rules for members, has operated for exactly one day since Congress convened in January. In the meanwhile, a former Preston, Gates and Ellis lobbyist, Jack Abramoff has become the target of several serious investigations and the focus of the D.C. media.
Abramoff left Preston Gates in 2000. Even so, he’s a problem for the firm’s management. Reports have surfaced questioning Abramoff’s financing of travel for lawmakers, especially House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas). All of the spending under investigation happened while Abramoff worked at Preston Gates.
The Washington Post reported that airfare to London and Scotland in 2000 for House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) was charged to an American Express card issued to Jack Abramoff. House ethics rules bar lawmakers from accepting travel and related expenses from registered lobbyists.
Recently, we witnessed the power of Microsoft’s political machine when one of the champions of free and open source software, Peter Quinn resigned as CIO of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. In my opinion, Microsoft just blinked and everything went south. Other writers have also commented on the chain of events in Massachusetts. For example, Andy Undegrove writes a farewell piece in his blog to the maligned public servant. Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols also writes an article about this issue in Microsoft Wins, Open Standards Lose. Steven writes: “CIO Peter Quinn’s story tells us that if you go up against Microsoft, you can expect everything and the kitchen sink to be thrown at you.”
Previously, Abramoff charged expenses to a credit card billed to Preston Gates, and the Post stated that. Now, Abramoff’s connections while at Greenberg Traurig have become the focus of the Post’s attention. Yet, the questionable ethics violations supposedly happened while Abramoff worked for Preston Gates and it was their problem.
Does it surprise you that Melinda French Gates holds a seat on the Board of the Washington Post Co.? You can see a listing of the Board here. You might also notice one bridge partner sitting on that board.
Some people believe the seat of power in Washington, D.C. resides at the headquarters of the Washington Post. Certainly, membership on the Post’s board would require a position of prominence in the world. Perhaps some people might wonder what Melinda Gates has accomplished to put her in such a seat of power.
We can forget Melinda Gates position for a little while. We just want to establish the fact that she’s there in a position of some power. We also want to mention the possibility that some relationship exists between Preston Gates and Microsoft’s largest shareholders.
The Washington Post and its Melinda Gates factor is something that we covered before. The above also shows, using evidence, the Abramoff-BSA connection. We covered the Microsoft connection before [1, 2, 3, 4], but here is a comment from Dr. Gene Nelson (it seems as though he wrote a book about it), who remarks on this relationship too.
The Abramoff – Microsoft Corporation connection continues to be clarified. Microsoft utilizes other organizations to obscure the path connecting its lobbying dollars to legislators, among other purposes. There is an organization named the Business Software Alliance (BSA) which in many ways serves as a Microsoft proxy. BSA membership dues are related to software sales volume. Microsoft is dominant by this measure. Press accounts have also disclosed that when the BSA uncovers evidence of software piracy, the violator is given the “choice” of purchasing Microsoft software packages as an alternative to paying a large legal settlement. Many violators choose the Microsoft software purchase option. Thus, BSA may be viewed as an extension of Microsoft’s sales organization. Examination of BSA’s lobbying disclosure documents, particularly during the critical period from 1998 to 2000, makes clear that Abramoff (and team) were employed by BSA. There are multi million dollar “lobbying expenditures” flowing through BSA and its allies. This is in addition to the over $20 million directly expended by Microsoft (and lobbying firms with Microsoft as a client) during the 1998-2000 period – and the millions Microsoft directly and indirectly expended in campaign finance contributions during the period. The “official acts” that Microsoft facilitated included beneficial (to Microsoft) changes in H-1B visa legislation in 1996, 1998, and 2000. This author, among others, uses the term “Abramoff Visa” as shorthand for the controversial H-1B visa program.
In addition, recent lobbying disclosure documents show the substantial lobbying sums being currently expended by Microsoft via Cornerstone Government Affairs (CGA).
Another victim of the Massachusetts fiasco was Louis Gutierrez, but the story was complex. Burke’s appointment we covered here before, just after Microsoft had ‘overthrown’ opposition (i.e. those adhering to public interests). Here is an important connection to pay attention to:
Brian Burke, the Microsoft official who was barred from former Massachusetts CIO Louis Gutierrez’s office because of his lobbying activities, is one of a cadre of well-connected Democrats on the company’s payroll in the state.
Massachusetts public records show that Burke registered with the state as a lobbyist for Microsoft last year.
E-mail records released in mid-October by the U.S. Senate Finance Committee as part of a 600-page report show that Microsoft had paid ATR in the past. The report questions the tax-exempt status of organizations such as ATR and examines its ties to convicted federal lobbyist Jack Abramoff, a longtime Norquist associate. E-mails included in the report indicate that Abramoff channeled money to ATR and other nonprofit groups in return for their advocacy on issues.
According to the report, on March 10, 1996, Abramoff wrote to Bruce Heiman, a colleague at Preston Gates & Ellis LLP, that Microsoft was “supposed to be paying [Norquist] $120k for this year ($10k a month)” and that “these lack of payments are really disgusting.”
We have already gone through and uncovered issues of antitrust relief and tax evasion, but another known issue is H-1B visas, a subject of much deceit, as we pointed out in [1, 2] (there are other upset voices and links at the bottom). Here is what the American Chronicle had to share.
Microsoft Brings in the Big Guns:
As was also stated in the previous Abramoff article, the largest contributor for financing the “Team Abramoff” lobbyist group was the software giant Microsoft Corporation. (Team Abramoff was hired by Bill Gates father’s law firm, Preston-Gates.) At the time, Mr. Abramoff with other Washington DC lobbyists were very successful at increasing the number of issued H-1B visa’s which are the key for high-tech companies to import low-cost, software engineering personnel. Due to the financial support of the Microsoft’s lobbyists, they were successful in increasing the number of H-1B visas in 1996, 1998 and 2000. It was hoped with the corralling of lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his Team Abramoff, Microsoft’s quest for more increases of the H-1B visas would subside. Unfortunately, Microsoft decided to bring in the big boys.
Microsoft has now chosen to take the direct route, and in doing so has enlisted the help of a very senior US Senator. On March 7th, Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Mass), invited the chairman of Microsoft, Bill Gates III (World’s Wealthiest Man) to address Congress and asked for Mr. Gates’ advice on improving US competitiveness. Kennedy had stated that “the US cannot sit back and watch other countries attract the best talent”.
There is not much more we could find on this subject other than this comment and lots more which is appended below.
I wonder if any of the reporters assigned to this March 12 WDC event will inquire about Microsoft’s use of Jack Abramoff and his network to help procure Microsoft-friendly changes to H-1B visa legislation in 1996, 1998, and 2000. Google on “The Greedy Gates Immigration Gambit” to see my recently published 10-page investigative article. I call H-1B the “Abramoff Visa.”
The Gates-Abramoff connection is mentioned here as well.
In June 2000, NCPPR published another article that referred to the rate increase, this time written by David Ridenour, Amy’s husband and vice president of the thinktank. David Ridenour’s article didn’t mention the Magazine Publishers Association specifically, but was entitled “Split up the Postal Service, not Microsoft.” (Abramoff also lobbied for Microsoft; William H. Gates of Preston Gates is the father of Microsoft founder Bill Gates.)
These links are made very clear in the appended references which accompany this post.
More recently, back in September of this year, the involvement of the Department of Justice became evident too.
Former top DOJ officials emerge in Abramoff case
Two former top Justice Department officials emerged Wednesday as figures in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal as prosecutors disclosed plans to turn over some of the officials’ correspondence to defense attorneys preparing for trial in the case.
We have cited several sources before in order to show that the US Justice Department, much like the White House, was essentially — albeit just partly — corrupted by Microsoft. They have tremendous influence there and it’s not about to change [1, 2]. This latest finding may just feed this assessment even more.
To those who think that Bill Gates and his father don’t collaborate anymore, watch this eye-opener from the SCO case that unraveled one year ago.
Now it’s getting interesting. Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates’ father’s law firm, known as the firm that represents Microsoft, has just filed a Notice of Entry of Appearance and Demand for Notices and Papers [PDF] in the SCO bankruptcy on behalf of MSLI, Inc., otherwise known as Microsoft Licensing, one of the creditors on SCO’s list. In fact, one of the 20 top creditors [PDF], owed $125,000 or so. That would give them a seat at the creditors committee table, presumably, should they so desire, if a committee is formed later.
I guess filing as MSLI instead of Microsoft Licensing is like putting on sunglasses, hoping no one will notice you.
But we do notice!
The level of corruption and amount of information one can find about this is overwhelming, so we append some more food for thought beneath this preliminary roundup. It’s the tip of a very large iceberg. █
E-mails released by the committee show that Abramoff, often with the knowledge of the groups’ leaders, exploited the tax-exempt status and leveraged the stature of the organizations to build support among conservatives for legislation or government action sought by clients including Microsoft Corp., mutual fund company DH2 Inc., Primedia Inc.’s Channel One Network, and Brown-Forman, maker of Jack Daniel’s whiskey.
Citizens Against Government Waste has said some highly critical things about open source software in the past. They’ve also pounced on supporters of the OpenDocument Format along the way. Alas, it seems their close ties to Jack Abramoff have drawn the (unfavorable) attention of Senate staff.
Today 5 charities were named in the Jack Abramoff scandal. More will be implicated. I know that the Gates Foundation gave money to at least one Jack Abramoff charity. I doubt the Gates Foundation will be named but I think it involved in slime-ball influence-peddling nonetheless.
Jack Abramoff is a name that is synonymous with slime-ball tactics. He learned these tactics, which often involve charities, as key man for Preston Gates and Ellis, the Gates family law and lobby firm started by Bill Gates’ father to deal with Microsoft’s antitrust and permatemp problems.
Preston Gates and Ellis is currently chaired by Bill Neukom, the lawyer that suffered the devastating Microsoft defeats in the US Anti-trust cases during the Clinton/Reno administration and is today President of the American Bar Association.
Bill Neukom, while employed by Microsoft and heading Microsoft’s legal department, hired lobbyists recommended by Abramoff, which proved to be the means to end sanctions Judge Jackson had recommended. It also ended Judge Jackson’s predicted rise to the US Supreme Court, denighing all US citizens of his service there, as well as Janet Reno’s services elsewere.
I’m wondering why the “elephant in the living room” is being ignored.
specifically, how Jack Abramoff and his team worked with corrupt
legislators such as former Rep. Tom DeLay to help Microsoft Corporation
procure “official acts” in exchange for “things of value” between 1995 and
How long will it take for a huge aspect of the Abramoff Scandal to be critically examined?
Publicly available documents (available on request) provide information regarding Microsoft Corporation lobbyist Jack Abramoff – and colleagues – lobbying then Majority Whip Rep. Tom DeLay’s office in 1998 for expansion of the controversial H-1B visa program. Microsoft tapped the same lobbying network in 2000 to expand the H-1B program again – despite House testimony critical of the program from myself and several others on August 5, 1999.
According to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics tabulations, Microsoft has spent about $100 million in lobbying and campaign finance contributions since 1998. In exchange for things of value, Microsoft received official acts worth billions annually. The late Milton Friedman called the H-1B visa program a “government subsidy” in a 2002 article.
Jack Abramoff’s employer at the time was Preston Gates, a firm that included Bill Gates, III father as one of its principals.
When will federal authorities investigate this unprecedented corruption that has cost millions of experienced American citizens their careers, as they are replaced by “fresh (inexpensive) young blood” from India and Communist China, among other third world nations?
Microsoft is working the same lobbying network right now to provide the biggest H-1B visa program expansion in history via S.2611 (The SKIL Bill.) The firm hopes to have the legislation pass during the “lame duck” session in December, 2006.
But there’s another potential cause of his deletion from Outlook address books at Microsoft: Reed is now caught up in the influence-peddling scandal in D.C., which includes accusations he worked in concert with two other top Republicans also once engaged by Microsoft. One of them, Jack Abramoff, lobbied for Microsoft in the late 1990s while a member of the Seattle law and lobbying firm Preston Gates Ellis—the firm of Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates’ father, William H. Gates II. Abramoff is under investigation for possibly bilking millions of dollars from former Indian tribal clients and improperly using his friendship with House Speaker Tom DeLay, who is facing ethics charges and is the subject of federal investigations. (See “Following the Money,” April 6.) Abramoff’s questioned activities include a suspected money-laundering scheme that involves both Reed and fellow Microsoft adviser and lobbying superstar Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform.
Microsoft: Earlier this year, it was revealed that Bill Gates’ Microsoft had paid Reed a $20,000 monthly retainer. Reed’s work with the company dovetailed neatly with the company’s temporary refusal to support a gay-rights bill in Olympia, Washington, which failed.
In early June, the Seattle Weekly reported that if Reed “ever had anything to do with Microsoft’s role, or lack thereof, in this state’s gay-rights debate, he won’t next time….[since] [h]e’s being deleted from the Redmond software giant’s payroll.” Although Microsoft wouldn’t “confirm” Reed’s termination, company spokesperson Ginny Terzano conceded that Reed’s firm was “no longer on retainer.”
Involvement with Jack Abramoff: While Reed’s stint at, and ultimate dismissal from Microsoft, brought the company and lobbyist unwelcome headlines, those stories pale next to the pounding Reed is taking for his alleged involvement with Jack Abramoff — the lobbying titan under investigation in a number of cases.
Abramoff and DeLay had strong connections to the Seattle-based law firm, Preston Gates Ellis, co-founded by William Gates, Bill Gates’ Dad, back in 1990. I’ve often wondered what one of Seattle’s most prestigious law firms had to do with the two most corrupt folks in Washington in decades. I’ve also wondered why no one in the media was asking about it.
The lack of coverage has ended. Rick Anderson at the Seattle Weekly has a great article laying out how both Preston Gates Ellis and Microsoft were entangled in the web of corrupt people. Whether or not either organization was actually entangled in the web of corruption has yet to be determined.
For your Truth Seaking enjoyment, on the day of Abramoff’s sentencing for wire fraud.
In Seattle, the Times and Weekly both have portrayed the Gates family as a crime family. One of the above links documents how Abramoff and his associates not only worked for the Gates Family law and lobby firm but also billed Microsoft and were on retainer. Microsoft’s Abramoff likely had a role in abrogating the divestiture of Microsoft and in Judg[e] Jackson’s lab[e]ling of the company as a criminal compa[n]y.
What is most interesting is the lobbying on behalf of Abromoff now. He has more to tell and the telling will further implecate the Gates Family. This family also sits on the board of the Washington Post and controls the largest foundation in the world, which donated money to Abramoff charities.
This inside account of Abramoff’s career is drawn from interviews with government officials and former associates in the lobbying shops of Seattle-based Preston Gates & Ellis and Greenberg Traurig; thousands of court and government records; and hundreds of e-mails.
MPA hired Preston Gates Ellis Rouvelas & Meeds LLP — a Seattle-based law firm (Gates is the father of the Microsoft founder) — and Abramoff worked the account for Preston Gates for at least one year. MPA was the firm’s sixth largest client.
Before joining Seattle-based Preston Gates & Ellis, Jack Abramoff had been involved with South Africa’s apartheid regime, Col. Oliver North’s campaign to arm Nicaraguan contras, Zaire’s dictator Mobutu Sese Seko and Angolan rebel leader Jonas Savimbi, who reportedly had his opponents burned at the stake.
Abramoff would emerge as the firm’s star in the capital, pulling in millions of dollars and catapulting Preston Gates into the big leagues of lobbying even as his freewheeling style, disdain for authority and penchant for secrecy strained relations with his bosses.
Ultimately, Abramoff’s lobbying practice at Preston Gates became a launching pad for schemes of fraud and influence peddling that would play out on a larger scale once he left the firm at the end of 2000 — eventually exploding into one of the biggest lobbying scandals in a generation.
Abramoff is the central figure in what could become the biggest congressional corruption scandal in generations. Justice Department prosecutors are pressing him and his lawyers to settle fraud and bribery allegations by the end of this week, sources knowledgeable about the case said. Unless he reaches a plea deal, he faces a trial Jan. 9 in Florida in a related fraud case.
A reconstruction of the lobbyist’s rise and fall shows that he was an ingenious dealmaker who hatched interlocking schemes that exploited the machinery of government and trampled the norms of doing business in Washington — sometimes for clients but more often to serve his desire for wealth and influence. This inside account of Abramoff’s career is drawn from interviews with government officials and former associates in the lobbying shops of Preston Gates & Ellis LLP and Greenberg Traurig LLP; thousands of court and government records; and hundreds of e-mails obtained by The Washington Post, as well as those released by Senate investigators.
 Preston Gates Mates
Lapin’s friend Abramoff was first hired as a lobbyist in 1994 by Preston Gates’ D.C. office, Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds, where 60 of the firm’s 400 attorneys work. Rather than litigate, most troll the power corridors in search of friendly legislation for such clients as Microsoft and the Port of Seattle, as well as an assortment of Indian tribes.
A senior congressional aide traveled to the Northern Mariana Islands in January 2000 to help Seattle-based Preston Gates in “obtaining and maintaining” clients as part of the public-corruption scheme orchestrated by Jack Abramoff, according to the lobbyist’s recent guilty plea.
Abramoff worked at Preston Gates from 1994-2000.
My recent article on the Abramoff lobbying dealings with Microsoft really struck a nerve (AmerChron Mag, Feb. 24). I have received responses from both irate lobbyists and those that have been affected by the lobbying efforts of “Team Abramoff”. Specifically the negative affect due to the efforts and the millions of dollars from Microsoft Corporation in supporting these H-1B visa expansion efforts. Now, as expected, the deeper I dug, the larger the tip of the ice berg. Even the recently deceased free-market thinker, Milton Friedman felt that the H-1B visa program was used as a “farm system” for companies such as Microsoft and Intel. Mr. Friedman stated; “There is no doudt, that the [H-1B] program is a benefit to their employers, enabling them to get workers at a lower wage, and to that extent, it is a subsidy.” There is no doubt that the H-1B visa system provides a subsidy that lowers the wage market overall for IT talent.
What is really disturbing about the Microsoft connection with the H-1B issue is that they are not even making a show of trying to hire US high-tech workers. Microsoft did not attempt to recruit at any of the 22 California State University campuses, where many of the high-tech US computer workers graduate. Microsoft is also not participating at this year’s Engineering Job Fair at CSUS.
To top off the hypocrisy of all this is the involvement of the special interest groups such as the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). This group is part of an annual $100 Million Dollar industry that specializes in processing corporate immigration documents. In addition, seven of the major H-1B users are not even US corporations. They are East Indian Outsourcing Firms. These organizations bring in Indian workers, train them and then transfer the workers, jobs and the technology back to India. This supports a major loss of US industry infrastructure.
The Corrupt Roots of the “Abramoff Visa”
Two books released in 2006 provide background regarding Jack Abramoff’s tight control of “Team Abramoff”—and his desire to attract deep-pocketed lobbying clients such as Microsoft Corporation (and one of Microsoft’s proxy organizations, the Business Software Alliance). The long-term relationships between lawyer Jack Abramoff, lobbyist Grover Norquist, and lobbyist Ralph Reed are underscored. Lawyer David Safavian is also involved with Microsoft. The K Street Gang: The Rise and Fall of the Republican Machine by Matthew Continetti (Doubleday) was completed in late January 2006. The second book, Heist: Superlobbyist Jack Abramoff, his Republican Allies, and the buying of Washington by Peter H. Stone (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux) was finished in early Summer 2006. (Neither author anticipated that both the House and Senate would shift to the Democratic Party in the November, 2006 mid-term elections as a result of the “Culture of Corruption.”)
On the next page is an organization chart for members of “Team Abramoff” who were paid by Microsoft. The three entries marked with an asterisk had roles in procuring reduced tax obligations for the Microsoft profits that had been enhanced by the H-1B visa program since Jack Abramoff began work at the Washington, D.C. offices of Preston-Gates (now Kirkpatrick, Lockhart, Preston, Gates, Ellis LLP) in early 1995. Note that one of the principals in Preston-Gates is Bill Gates II, the father of the head of Microsoft, Bill Gates III. This author believes that there is a strong connection between Abramoff starting to work at Preston-Gates and with Bill Gates, III becoming the “World’s Wealthiest Man” in 1995, a title that Gates has held until mid-2007.
References 11–15 (available online) document Microsoft’s 1996 payments to Grover Norquist and Norquist’s effectiveness in preventing Senator Alan Simpson’s 1995 reforms (S. 1394.IS) of the H-1B visa program that would have required firms to make meaningful attempts to recruit American citizens before hiring H-1B visa holders, among other still-needed changes to the H-1B visa regulations in 2007. This author’s February, 2007 telephone conversation with former Sen. Simpson confirmed that Simpson was angered by Norquist’s dirty tricks and hopes that Grover Norquist will eventually suffer legal sanctions for his conduct.
Bill Gates lied to the U.S. Congress last week. He misrepresented that Microsoft’s H-1b jobs for new graduates with no experience “start at about $100,000 per year.” In fact in FY 2006 only 12.4% of Microsoft’s LCAs for H-1bs paid $100k or more, and these were for directors, managers, and legal counsel rather than for new graduates.