As Big Tech was lobbying to keep the Senate from passing antitrust legislation, Microsoft flew dozens of congressional staffers out to Washington for a multi-day visit with its lobbyists and executives.
During the event, held June 29 through July 1, the staffers met Microsoft’s senior director of government affairs, Alli Halataei, according to gift travel disclosures filed with the Senate and House. Halataei is one of the lobbyists the company reports as having held discussions with members of the House and Senate on antitrust issues, according to its lobbying disclosure for the second quarter of this year. In particular, the disclosure indicates that Halataei lobbied on the Open App Markets Act and the American Choice and Innovation Online Act (ACIOA), the two antitrust bills that passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this year but are being held back from floor votes by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) for unknown reasons.
Microsoft is supportive of the Open Apps Market App, as it would impact their competitors Apple and Google much more so than it would them, but it is not supporting the ACIOA. “We’re not trying to lobby in favor of the bill. But that doesn’t mean we’re opposing it either,” is how Microsoft President Brad Smith described the company’s position on the ACIOA in a recent interview with Geekwire.
The American Choice and Innovation Online Act would prevent companies with 50 million or more monthly U.S.-based users and a market capitalization of at least $550 billion from “giving preference to their own products on the platform, unfairly limiting the availability on the platform of competing products from another business, or discriminating in the application or enforcement of the platform’s terms of service among similarly situated users,” among other restrictions in the bill, according to the official bill summary. The bill could potentially impact Microsoft’s ability to pre-install software bundles like Microsoft Office and OneDrive on its devices.
Schumer also paid a visit to Microsoft around the same time that the congressional staffers were there. Schumer met with Smith to discuss the antitrust bills, according to FedScoop.
Some Democrats, like antitrust bill sponsor Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), have been pressuring Schumer to call up the bills before time runs out in the legislative session. “It’s time to stop throwing popcorn at the C.E.O.s and actually do something,” Klobuchar said recently in a floor speech. “Now it is time to bring this bill to a vote on the floor.” Klobuchar said over the weekend on MSNBC that she has been talking to Schumer about holding votes on the bills but that they will not be getting votes before the August recess. House Democrats say they are waiting on the Senate to pass the bills because they are confident that they have enough votes to quickly give final approval to whatever version of them the Senate can agree on.
Microsoft disclosed making 18 donations from its PAC on June 29, day one of its event. Recipients that day included Senate Democrats Tammy Baldwin, Chris Van Hollen, Richard Blumenthal, Debbie Stabenow, and Patty Murray. Microsoft treats congressional staffers to trips to its headquarters similar to this one on a nearly annual basis, according to a review of gift travel filings.