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Microsoft is spending millions on mid-term election candidates

Microsoft's official contributions tally up to $2 million, so far

Microsoft's political action committee has contributed about $2 million to mid-term election campaigns throughout the U.S., and this doesn't include donations made by its individual super rich employees.

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Microsoft's PAC isn't the biggest IT company PAC around but it is significant. In comparison, AT&T, whose very existence is dependent on government regulation, has a federal PAC spending about $4 million on the mid-terms. But $2 million is nothing to sneeze at. OpenSecrets.org calls Microsoft, "one of the most generous political givers in the country," and says Microsoft's decision to launch a PAC was an idea that "eventually galvanized an entire industry, as computer and Internet companies quickly moved to emulate Microsoft’s political savvy." Google's PAC (dubbed NetPAC) has only spent about $300,000. But there are still a few big powerful IT companies, like IBM, that sell a lot of stuff to the feds each year, but manage to get by without a lobbying PAC at all. Go figure.

The Microsoft PAC gets its money from contributions made by individuals, many of them are Microsoft employees, but not all of them are. The specific numbers of how much the PAC collects and spends varies between Web sites that track such stats. I used the official Federal Election Commission as the ultimate source for the information I've documented below (stats were updated October 13) but also tapped OpenSecrets.com and Congress.org.

According to the FEC, the Microsoft PAC has raised $1.9M from 6859 individual donors. Yes, Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates (and their wives) are all among the individual contributors. (Funny, the site lists Melinda Gates' occupation as a "homemaker" ... guess running an international foundation doesn't count as a job.)

Interestingly, the PAC also obtained a handful of "disbursements" from elected officials. These are contributions paid to it by members of Congress. For instance, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), who is not up for re-election in the mid-terms, contributed $2,500 to the Microsoft PAC. She's also been granted funds from the PAC in previous years. That donation might be baffling, until you consider that the PAC spent $93,300 in local elections in Texas -- that's even more than it spent in Microsoft's own home state of Washington, which got nearly $80,000 of PAC money. This was, perhaps, a way for her to funnel contributions to a local election she cares about.

Contributions by Party

 
Pelosi, Nancy (D-CA)  $10,000
Clyburn, James (D-SC)  $10,000
Towns, Edolphus (D-NY)  $10,000
Reid, Harry (D-NV)  $10,500
Smith, Adam (D-WA)  $13,000
Lincoln, Blanche (D-AR)  $15,500

Democrats total

$69,000
Cantor, Eric (R-VA)  $10,000
Boehner, John (R-OH)  $10,000
Bennett, Robert (R-UT)  $10,000
Vitter, David (R-LA)  $10,000
Reichert, Dave (R-WA)  $10,000
Camp, Dave (R-MI)  $10,000
McMorris Rodgers, Cathy (R-WA)  $10,000
Burr, Richard (R-NC)  $10,000

Republicans total

$80,000

Overall, the PAC has promised to contribute $2.1M to various campaigns, most of it, $1.6M, says the FEC,  to committees formed to support candidates or propositions, as is the way of U.S. politics these days. From what we can see, Microsoft spreads the money between both Democrats and Republicans. It has also contributed about $400K to local and state races like the ones in Texas, too.

Like most PACs, the Microsoft PAC makes a lot of small donations of about $1,000-$3,000. The PAC has contributed to 262 campaigns out of a total of 435 seats up for re-election in this mid-term, according to Congress.org. Miss I-am-not-a-witch Christine O'Donnell is NOT among them. Nor is any other candidate that Tea Party claims as one of their own. What the PAC money doesn't tell you (and I'll post about that later this week), is that, combined with individual donors, two candidates have garnered over $100,000 each in contributions from Microsoft and its employees.

Of the 262, it gave over $5,000 to only 62, and over 10,000 to only 14 (see chart). While more Democrats overall were funded by Microsoft (150 Democrats versus 112 Republicans) it often gives Republican candidates slightly more money. Of the 14 candidates that got the biggest PAC checks, more of them were Republicans. This is super interesting because Microsoft employees are known for their Democrat leanings. I wonder if they know that their company's PAC leans a little to the Red, even if two Democrats got the most funds of all. (Disclosure: I am a registered Democrat.)

Notice anything about the list? All are incumbents sitting on powerful committees such as the Joint Economic Committee, Ways and Means, or the Science and Technology Committee, among others of obvious interest to Microsoft. Indeed, of the millions it spent, only about $200,000 went to non-incumbents, OpenSecrets.org says.

So why did those two gain extra contributions? As an incumbent congressman for Washington state, it's not surprising that Adam Smith gained a big chunk of Microsoft PAC money, but his district doesn't include Redmond. Republican Dave Reichert is the District 8 representative, yet he warranted a little less, at $10K.

But what's up with Blanche Lincoln, the Democrat from Arkansas? Answer: she's on the ultra powerful Finance Committee which handles everything from taxation to international competitiveness. She's chairman of the group's Social Security, Pensions, and Family Policy subcommittee.

Anything else you see about Microsoft's PACs spending habits? Chime in and let me know.

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