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While presenting a progressive front, Microsoft has been very careful about playing the political game, staying on the right side of those in power with government-friendly policies (e.g. regarding defence contracts) and political donations (which are seen as speech and not bribes in USA) to a wide variety of politicians including those on the right who don’t support the same modern values Microsoft says they espouse.
Possibly unrelated, Microsoft has also avoided a lot of the scrutiny that has plagued companies such as Google and Amazon who have made more principled stances against the Trump regime, with Google employees, for example, forcing the company to drop defence contract bids and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos Washington Post publication widely seen as his anti-Trump mouthpiece.
Those days may be coming to an end, according to a leaked internal memo in which Microsoft tells employees that they will be reconsidering their contributions to politicians and will be taking employee input on which politicians they support.
The memo, attributed to Fred Humphries Jr., Corporate Vice President, US Government Affairs, notes:
We have heard from many employees that greater transparency is needed when it comes to MSPAC policies, giving criteria, and how decisions are made in terms of the candidates we support. Our operations are realigning to reflect that feedback.
The company will be making three new measures to better reflect employee values:
- Microsoft will be creating new advisory councils based on Employee Resource Groups and geographies to increase dialogue and transparency. These groups will play a role similar to the PAC’s Advisory Council, which provides feedback to the Operating Committee on their approach to contributions. The groups will be announced later this summer.
- Microsoft will pause political contributions that began July 1 and will be in effect until the fall.
- Microsoft will communicate closer with employees about planned political contributions.
Humphries notes that Microsoft’s current contributions to a bipartisan group of lawmakers support a range of company priorities, including progressive policies on immigration and equality, privacy and climate change, but of course also economic priorities such as trade and the Cloud.
Critics have however noted a major dissonance between Microsoft’s statements and their contributions, for example donating $170,000 to politicians who oppose the Equality Act, or donating to an Alabama politician whose Senate campaign page promises to stop migrants by “any means necessary”.
It has been clear that part of Microsoft’s success recently has been about playing the political game very well. It remains to be seen if the company will be able to maintain its current position while also satisfying their employees.