Kissing Babies in the Microsoft Case

SAN FRANCISCO (02/02/2000) - Today's presidential primary in New Hampshire isn't the only vote-seeking campaign being waged. In the Justice Department's antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft Corp., both sides have mounted a get-out-the-vote rally in the form of legal briefs.

The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal reported nearly the same details: that the Association for Competitive Technology had filed a brief yesterday in support of Microsoft, and that the Software and Information Industries Association will support the Justice Department in a filing expected today. But headline skimmers take note: Both papers ran essentially the same story with a different spin. The Journal's headline played up the SIIA filing as anti-Redmond, but the Times, with no confirmation of the SIIA filing, preferred to go with news of ACT's pro-Microsoft brief.

The Times made it clear that the ACT is largely a Microsoft handmaiden, although it couched the relationship more diplomatically. The Times explained that ACT was founded in 1998 as a result of the government suit. The Journal handicapped the brief derby, asserting that the ACT brief's star-studded signees "blew away the competition" because of the presence of two former U.S. attorneys general and two ex-White House counsels.

According to the San Jose Mercury News, the ACT brief argued that Microsoft - surprise! - broke no laws, and that its actions actually benefited consumers.

The Washington Post, which had the early word on the brief, reported that two friends of Microsoft - Corporate Software Technology, a Mass.-based computer reseller, and Clarity Consulting, a Chicago-based consulting firm - had covered most of the brief's legal fees. The Post noted that ACT signee Boyden Gray, who had been White House counsel during the Bush administration, has close ties to Microsoft as the chairman of the conservative think tank Citizens for a Sound Economy, and frequently argued Microsoft's case to reporters during the trial.

Meanwhile, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Bill Gates told a panel that Microsoft wasn't planning any media takeovers. "The strategy that my company is pursuing has really been the same for the last 25 years," Gates said, according to AP. "I think there's room for a company whose main goal is to create software and allow that software to be a very empowering tool." And the more it sells, the more friends it can find to explain its mission.

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