Mr. Microsoft goes to Congress: Technology becomes political

As technology becomes a more fundamental part of the global economy, we should expect its leaders to spend more time lobbying the U.S. Congress for favors?

Over the past few years, the technology industry has discovered that those pesky bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. actually wield a lot of power. Microsoft, in particular, learned years ago that a little money goes a long way to stave off antitrust lawyers, as suggested by The New York Times.

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It's therefore not surprising to see Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, and others actively lobbying Congress for a wide variety of things, including H1-B visa expansion, Net neutrality, etc.

What is perhaps surprising is how much Microsoft is outspending its rivals, as The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports.

Indeed, as the Associated Press notes, Microsoft's "tab of almost $2 million for the third quarter alone nearly equaled the amount its rival Google Inc. spent in the first nine months of the year."

There are good reasons for this: Microsoft has spent quite a bit of time (and, apparently, money) this year trying to convince Congress to put the kibosh on the Google-Yahoo advertising deal, as reported in The New York Times, and ultimately succeeding. Last week Google abandoned the deal in the face of an antitrust fight, one no doubt founded in part on Microsoft's lobbying cash. Microsoft learned the hard way that money can make Washington, D.C. work for it...with just a few million dollars' worth of influence.

Gone are the days of two entrepreneurs in a garage, changing the world. As technology becomes a critical part of the global economy, lobbying and lawyers have become de rigueur. This year Microsoft is the big spender on Capitol Hill, but as Google comes under fire for privacy and other concerns, it will no doubt be next.

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About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.

     

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