Microsoft resumes controversial political donations, angering employees

by Surur
November 26, 2019
microsoft political contributions

In July we reported that Microsoft has agreed to suspend political donations “until the fall” after employees complained that the politicians in receipt of the donations expressed views at odds with Microsoft’s stated values.

In a leaked memo Fred Humphries Jr., Corporate Vice President, US Government Affairs, noted:

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.

It is of course pretty close to winter now, and true to its word, Microsoft has recommenced their political contributions. These are public and recorded at Twitter account Pinboard has pulled out a few of the most controversial.

Microsoft once again stands accused of hypocrisy and on this occasion of not sticking to their word of involving employees more in planning political contributions. In particular, Microsoft promised to create Employee Resource Groups to “increase dialogue and transparency.” This does not appear to have occurred.

In July this year Microsoft noted that their 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. It’s notable, after Microsoft’s JEDI contract Pentagon win,  that many of the recent contributions have been to military causes.

Several people on Twitter claim to have quit Microsoft in part due to their political donations.

Such issues are of course not unique to Microsoft. Silicon Valley (and presumably Seattle) employee activism has become an increasingly prevalent thorn in the side of tech companies, with employees arguing that companies should use their great power and wealth to promote liberal causes that reflect the employee make-up, rather than political and commercial expediency.

Google recently terminated several activist employees for data security breaches. One of these, Rebecca Rivers, had helped create a petition to demand Google end its contract with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and participated in a number of worker-organized campaigns, including the one resisting YouTube’s role in facilitating hate speech.

With a very important US election year coming I suspect this disconnect between employee ideals and company pragmatism will become much more of an issue over the next 12 months.

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