Feature

US tech firms take sides in election

In a slow year for the technology industry, donations to political groups, political action committees from computer and internet companies have contributed just over $1.6m (£876,000) to US president George Bush, and just under that amount to Democratic challenger John Kerry.

The industry ranks 14th on the Opensecrets.org top industries list. Republicans received 51% of the money.

US law prohibits corporations from directly contributing to political campaigns, but many technology companies give money through political action committees and IT employees are active contributors.

EDS, EMC, Siebel and Hewlett-Packard were all among the top 10 IT contributors listed on Opensecrets.org.

Companies often don't want to trumpet the effects of their political action committee contributions, said Steven Weiss, communications director for the Center for Responsive Politics, which operates Opensecrets.org. "Donors and candidates alike don't like to acknowledge the impact campaign contributions have," Weiss said. "It sounds a bit seedy because it is."

But Rick White, president and chief executive of the TechNet coalition, disagreed, saying that contributions simply help the tech industry to make its voice heard. Without political activitism, the industry "lets someone else set the agenda".

Among computer and internet companies, Microsoft, through its political action committee and employees, is the largest contributor during the 2004 election cycle, and has donated nearly $1.9m to federal candidates or political groups. Its donations are more than triple those of any other tech company, according to Opensecrets.org.

Microsoft's political action committee and employees combine to be the 19th largest single donor to the Bush campaign during the 2004 election cycle, contributing nearly $185,000 by July. But it also shows up as Kerry's 13th largest donor, giving $136,000.

Opensecrets lists Bush's top donor during the 2004 cycle as Morgan Stanley, with $561,000 and Kerry's top contributor as the University of California, with $405,000.

Of the nearly $1.9m Microsoft's political action committee and employees have donated to political groups during the 2004 election cycle 61% has gone to Democrats, although only 47% of Microsoft's $857,000 in political action committee contributions to federal candidates has gone to Democrats.

According to Opensecrets.org the top contributors among computer and Internet PACs and employees during the 2004 election cycle are:

  1. Microsoft - $1.9 million; 61% to Democrats.
  2. Cisco - $489,000; 53% to Democrats.
  3. Intel - $337,000; 50% to Democrats.
  4. IBM - $331,000; 65% to Democrats.
  5. EDS - $299,000; 74% to Republicans. 
  6. Siebel Systems - $276,000; 63% to Republicans.
  7. EMC - $228,000; 88% to Republicans. 
  8. Dell - $217,000; 74% to Republicans. 
  9. eBay - $194,000; 54% to Democrats. 
  10. HP - $193,000; 57% to Democrats.

Grant Gross writes for IDG News Service


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This was first published in August 2004

 

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