Ashcroft firm lobbies for tech titans

eBay, Oracle among companies using former U.S. top cop John Ashcroft as a hired gun.

As eBay heads to the U.S. Supreme Court next week for its closely watched patent case, the Internet giant is receiving help from a lobbying firm run by former Attorney General John Ashcroft.

eBay is not the only tech titan to call on the lobbying firm run by the nation's former top cop. Oracle, for example, paid the Ashcroft Group LLC $220,000 last year for help on antitrust issues. The relationship between tech companies and politicians is getting increasingly tighter, as the industry matures.

In the case of eBay, the Ashcroft Group registered last month as its lobbyist to assist with patent reform. The eBay case, which will go before the U.S. Supreme Court on March 29, deals with a patent lawsuit that the Internet giant lost to the MercExchange. A Supreme Court decision is expected to clarify whether a lower court can rule against a defendant in a patent case, yet forgo issuing an injunction to halt the use of the patents in question.

eBay is working directly with Ashcroft's associate, Juleanna Glover Weiss, former press secretary to Vice President Dick Cheney, and not Ashcroft, an eBay representative noted. She is expected to tackle such issues as public policy and the media for the Internet giant.

Oracle, however, is working directly with Ashcroft, whose firm it hired last year. The Ashcroft Group registered as Oracle's lobbyist in mid-October , a week before the Department of Justice extended its antitrust review into the software maker's Siebel Systems acquisition.

The Siebel antitrust matter was resolved in short order and allowed to go forward, a stark contrast to Oracle's drawn out antitrust battle with the DOJ over its plans to acquire PeopleSoft. Ashcroft was serving as Attorney General at the time of the PeopleSoft fight, which the government ultimately lost in court.

Oracle did not immediately comment.

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