My wife said that one of her colleagues today asked her why Microsoft would hire Ralph Reed as a lobbyist. How about because given the wonders of our political system, hiring conservative lobbyists is the only way to get your voice heard in DC these days?
DeLay organized the “K Street Project” in the 1990s to help Republicans grab more special-interest money in Washington. This scheme—named for the D.C. street that is home to many lobby shops—threatens corporations and trade groups with political reprisals if they hire Democrats as top lobbyists.
I think it’s crazy to assume that Reed was ever asked to ponder social value or civil rights issues. The New York Times thinks so too, according to this, which says “the initial New York Times story makes it pretty clear that Microsoft thought it was hiring Reed to lobby Bush”. You hire Ralph Reed to get the attention of the Republican majority, that's all.
Is it terrible that Microsoft feels like it has to have a strong lobby presence in order to achieve business goals? Yes. Fortune had an interesting article a few years back that explained the history of the MS lobbying effort. It’s not a very flattering story, and it gets the cause and effect backwards when it says MS “has created a model for influencing government that other companies are sure to follow.” The point, however, is sadly clear: the companies with the $$ and the lobbyists are better off than those without. When your competitors are spending money in DC and you aren’t, you lose. So now Microsoft spends money in DC.
Is it particularly terrible that Tom DeLay’s K Street Project means that it’s no longer just about spending $$ in DC, it’s now about spending $$ with DeLay’s favorite Republican buddies? Yep.
It’s a crooked game, but it’s the only game in town.
As always, my writings represent only my own views, and are not intended to reflect those of my employer.