The new era of lobbying - Chapter 4 : The precedent set by Bradford L. Smith.

Alain-Patrick Umucyo By Alain-Patrick Umucyo, 16th Nov 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/2i6lv8lb/
Posted in Wikinut>Business>Ethics

New instalment in the series dedicated to understanding 'Why firms need lobbyists now more than ever ?' (1). This is the first part of a focus on the new lobbying strategy that has expanded since the beginning of the XXIst century.

1 Dipping in Europe

On 1 November 2014, Sam Schechner, journalist for The Wall Street Journal, reported on a conference about the technology industry organised by the American newspaper.(2) Mr Schechner focused on a public conversation involving Axelle Lemaire, the French Secretary of State in charge of Information Technology under the French Minister of economy(3), and Brad Smith, “responsible for (...)” Microsoft's “government affairs”(4).

The author reported this information in the context of “the ever growing market power of US technology firms is to worry the Heads of State or Government in Europe.”(5) He extends on the current difficulty of regulating the operations of these firms in the European Union before ending his report with the words of Ms Lemaire : “That would be too easy to present Europe as the excessive regulator and the USA as the free market”.(6) Brad Smith has understood.

2 Brad Smith, the lobbyist

Bradford L. Smith joined Microsoft in 2001 at a time when “Microsoft was facing a litany of penalties in its antitrust battle with the Justice Department, narrowly avoiding a government-ordered breakup of the company.”(7)

Today, Brad Smith is “the longest serving member of the senior leadership team.”(8) As the “General Counsel and Executive Vice President” of the company's “Legal and Corporate Affairs”(9), he “has become the elder statesman of Microsoft and a de facto ambassador for the technology industry at large.”(10)

Before presiding over a whole department at Microsoft, “Mr. Smith worked for years as a lawyer (in Washington, D.C.) (...). While much of the tech industry looks upon government with a strong sense of skepticism, if not disdain, he has cultivated relationships there for years.”(11)

3 Brad Smith, the leader

In the technology industry, Bradford L. Smith has efficiently employed his experience of reaching bipartisan cooperation. In December 2013, the lobbyist unified “major tech companies to call for new limits on surveillance”.(12) Thus were bonded undeniable foes such as Twitter and Facebook or Google and Microsoft.(13) The latter pair “put aside their hostilities and, in January, they and other technology companies reached a deal with the Obama administration.”(14) From then on, “communications providers (were able) to make public more information than ever before about the orders that they have received to provide data to the government.”(15) This should be just a first step for Brad Smith who “equated government snooping with other serious threats like malware and cyberattacks”(16).

And this is really about promoting the interests of the tech sector rather than pushing for principles like the defence of citizens' privacy against an omnipotent government. Indeed, tech companies use the methods that they seem to condemn. “(...) a legal case filed (...) against a former Microsoft employee shows the power these companies themselves have to snoop on their customers whenever they want to. Microsoft accused the former employee of stealing company trade secrets in the form of software code for the Windows operating system, and leaking the software to a blogger. In an investigation, the company figured out who revealed the information by reading the emails and instant messages of the blogger on his Microsoft-operated Hotmail and message accounts.”(17)

To those methods held in contempt by tech industry Chief Executives when they are applied by the government, “the elder statesman of Microsoft” prefer political ones. He “has also used his bully pulpit at Microsoft to advocate investments in education and changes in immigration policy, both important issues for Microsoft and the technology industry.”(18)

The present chapter is part of The new era of lobbying volume.

SOURCES

(1) UMUCYO Alain-Patrick. The new era of lobbying . Google Docs <https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1yqPy3gf7EcqHSPK3j4yy1nRHlPBJ9nyElj13qiRFiHM/edit?usp=sharing> accessed 30 May 2016

(2) SCHECHNER Sam. Neue EU-Gesetze sollen Marktmacht der US-Techkonzerne brechen . 01 November 2014. The Wall Street Journal. <http://www.wsj.de/nachrichten/SB10415335274427634357204580246280974845418?mod=rss_newsreel_WSJGermanyTechnik> accessed 14 November 2014

(3) Axelle Lemaire . Gouvernement.fr. <http://www.gouvernement.fr/ministre/axelle-lemaire> accessed 16 November 2014

(4) Microsoft. Author : Brad Smith . Blogs Microsoft. <http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/author/brad-smith/> accessed 16 November 2014

(5) SCHECHNER Sam. Neue EU-Gesetze sollen Marktmacht der US-Techkonzerne brechen . 01 November 2014. The Wall Street Journal. <http://www.wsj.de/nachrichten/SB10415335274427634357204580246280974845418?mod=rss_newsreel_WSJGermanyTechnik> accessed 16 November 2014

(6) Ibidem

(7) WINGFIELD Nick. Microsoft’s Top Lawyer Is the Tech World’s Envoy . 20 July 2014. The New-York Times. <http://nyti.ms/1sCdrGc> accessed 16 November 2014

(8) Ibidem

(9) Microsoft. Author : Brad Smith . Blogs Microsoft. <http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/author/brad-smith/> accessed 16 November 2014

(10) WINGFIELD Nick. Microsoft’s Top Lawyer Is the Tech World’s Envoy . 20 July 2014. The New-York Times. <http://nyti.ms/1sCdrGc> accessed 16 November 2014

(11) Ibidem

(12)
- WINGFIELD Nick. Microsoft’s Top Lawyer Is the Tech World’s Envoy . 20 July 2014. The New-York Times. <http://nyti.ms/1sCdrGc> accessed 16 November 2014
- TIMBERG Craig. Major tech companies unite to call for new limits on surveillance . 09 December 2013. The Washington Post. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/major-tech-companies-unite-to-call-for-new-limits-on-surveillance/2013/12/08/530f0fd4-6051-11e3-bf45-61f69f54fc5f_story.html> accessed 16 November 2014

(13) REFORM GOVERNMENT SURVEILLANCE. Global Government Surveillance Reform . Reform government surveillance. <https://www.reformgovernmentsurveillance.com/> accessed 16 November 2014

(14) WINGFIELD Nick. Microsoft’s Top Lawyer Is the Tech World’s Envoy . 20 July 2014. The New-York Times. <http://nyti.ms/1sCdrGc> accessed 16 November 2014

(15) COLE James M. Letter to Colin Stretch, Kent Walker, Erika Rottenberg, Brad Smith and Ronald Bell . 27 January 2014. Office of the Deputy Attorney General. Page 2. <http://www.justice.gov/iso/opa/resources/366201412716018407143.pdf> accessed 16 November 2014

(16) WINGFIELD Nick. Microsoft’s Top Lawyer Is the Tech World’s Envoy . 20 July 2014. The New-York Times. <http://nyti.ms/1sCdrGc> accessed 16 November 2014

(17) WINGFIELD Nick, BILTON Nick. Microsoft Software Leak Inquiry Raises Privacy Issues . 20 March 2014. The New-York Times. <http://nyti.ms/1erZgvQ> accessed 16 November 2014

(18) WINGFIELD Nick. Microsoft’s Top Lawyer Is the Tech World’s Envoy . 20 July 2014. The New-York Times. <http://nyti.ms/1sCdrGc> accessed 16 November 2014

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