For The Clintons, a Corporate Love Affair with Microsoft

April 29, 2015

There are many fun ways to buy access to the Clintons. Oftentimes something good will happen to you after giving them money, but it’s purely a coincidence. That good thing would have happened anyway. So shut up.

Few corporate entities have managed to entwine themselves in the Clinton financial empire more thoroughly than Microsoft, a 20th century technology company that presumably feels great affinity toward a couple of 20th century politicians trying to recapture past glory.

The feeling is apparently mutual. Hillary used Microsoft software, for example, to operate her now-deleted private email server. Microsoft is also one of the largest corporations in America, ranking 34th on last year’s Fortune 500 list, and boasting a market capitalization of close to $400 billion. That’s a lot of money, and the Clintons love that stuff.

Microsoft has been supporting the Clintons years. When Hillary Clinton ran for president in 2008, Microsoft was one of her top campaign contributors: the company’s employees and political action committees donated $184,119.

Microsoft is a regular sponsor of the Clinton Global Initiative, and has donated between $1 million and $5 million to the Clinton Foundation. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which also sponsors CGI events, has donated more than $25 million to the foundation.

Last year, Microsoft gave between $100,000 and $500,000 to the Center for American Progress, the liberal nonprofit founded by John Podesta, Bill Clinton’s former chief of staff and Hillary Clinton’s current campaign manager. The Gates Foundation chipped in between $500,000 and $1 million.

The company spends millions of dollars each year lobbying the federal government. Since 1998, Microsoft has devoted a whopping $132 million to lobbying efforts in Washington, a portion of which, it turns out, were aimed at the State Department when Hillary Clinton was in charge. They also pay people to give speeches from time to time—people like Bill Clinton, for example.

Earlier this week, the International Business Times reported that Microsoft was one of 13 companies to host a paid speech by Bill Clinton while the company was actively lobbying Hillary Clinton’s State Department. Records show that Microsoft paid Bill Clinton $175,000 for a speech in July 2010, the same time the company was lobbying the agency run by his wife.

As luck would have it, federal ethics regulations prohibiting government officials from accepting "gifts" from parties "seeking official action" from the government do not apply to speaking fees. And yet the conflict of interest seems pretty straightforward.

Microsoft’s lobbying efforts were successful. After receiving zero State Department contracts in the final year of the Bush administration, the company received $4.7 million worth of contracts between 2009 and 2012.

The Clintons’ ties to Microsoft run deeper than political donations and corporate sponsorships. In 2012, the firm hired Mark Penn, a former top adviser to both Clintons. After serving two years as an executive vice president for "strategy and special projects," Penn was promoted to chief strategy officer in 2014, a few months before Microsoft announced it was laying off 18,000 workers.

In April 2014, Chelsea Clinton announced she was pregnant at an event sponsored by the Clinton Foundation and Microsoft, obviously.