Strong-arming Microsoft?s Bill Gates for Money Is Wrong, Shows Corruption of Campaign Finance System

April 7, 2000

Strong-arming Microsoft?s Bill Gates for Money Is Wrong, Shows Corruption of Campaign Finance System

Statement by Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook

The Washington Post reported Friday that the House ethics committee has been asked to investigate National Republican Congressional Committee Chair Thomas M. Davis of Virginia for telling Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates during a closed-door meeting in the Capitol Wednesday that the GOP had not received enough “political support” from Microsoft.

Bill Gates saw first-hand this week how politics in Washington is played, how business leaders are routinely shaken down for cash, how politicians extort money from potential donors by implying they will get better treatment if they open their wallets.

They can call it a discussion, and they can call it standard rhetoric. But any way you slice it, this is just one more sleazy example of the legalized bribery that has thoroughly tarnished our political system. If the reports are accurate, the message to Gates was clear: Pay more, or else you won?t get your way in Congress.

According to the Post, at least one GOP ethics lawyer says Davis? action was legal. If it truly is legal to strong-arm Gates — even using euphemistic language — then we have still more evidence of the dire need to overhaul our campaign finance laws. When a business owner can?t have a discussion with lawmakers about federal policy without being hit up for money, it?s time for change. When lawmakers chastise a major business figure such as Gates for not throwing enough cash their way, it?s time for change. When open vote-buying is legal in the halls of Congress, we know it?s time for change.

Now is the time to make that change. The American public has ample reason to be fed up with politicians, because they seem to always have their hands out.

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