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Microsoft Government Politics

Microsoft's 'Men in Black' Kill Florida Open Standards Legislation 320

A NewsForge article was handed to us talking about pressure Microsoft recently brought to bear on a piece of Florida legislation. A few short paragraphs in Senate bill 1974 added by Rep. Ed Homan discussed the need for open data formats, but Microsoft's men in black responded by pressuring legislators and staff employees about the bill's language. "A legislative staff employee who would lose his job if he were quoted here by name said, 'By the time those lobbyists were done talking, it sounded like ODF (Open Document Format, the free and open format used by OpenOffice.org and other free software) was proprietary and the Microsoft format was the open and free one.' Two other legislative employees (who must also remain anonymous) told Linux.com that the Microsoft lobbyists implied that elected representatives who voted against Microsoft's interests might have a little more trouble raising campaign funds than they would if they helped the IT giant achieve its Florida goals. Note that lobbyists for IBM, Sun Microsystems, and Novell -- the only three companies with a major interest in open source who have registered lobbyists in Florida -- did not weigh in on this matter." Linux.com and Slashdot are both owned by OSTG.
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Microsoft's 'Men in Black' Kill Florida Open Standards Legislation

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  • Just goes to show (Score:5, Interesting)

    by xBOISEx ( 1089557 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @12:45PM (#18768905) Homepage
    This just proves how much of a threat MS perceives OO.o and other open source projects.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      While I don't disagree with you in any way, I just think there's too much anonymity and unsubstantiated content in there to really put any weight behind this specific article. Sure it happens, but the whole "who woudl lose his job if he were named" thing makes it a little bit suspect.
    • by twitter ( 104583 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @01:13PM (#18769393) Homepage Journal

      This just proves how much of a threat MS perceives OO.o and other open source projects.

      It also shows the costs of maintaining the monopoly we are all paying. The slave holder gets all tools and income from slaves.

      It's a death spiral for M$. The harder they try, the more expensive the monopoly becomes the more people will want to escape. News of this "success" will quickly turn into dozens of challenges. Real successes, where states and businesses actually save time money and trouble by bucking M$, will be promote even more challenges.

      It's funny that consideration of any alternative should be considered a "challenge" but that's they way M$ sees it and acts. Kudoos to you, Peter Quinn! The M$ monopoly is on the way out.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Rukie ( 930506 )
      I wish the public media would pick up on some of this stuff. It would be great to see John Stossel do a "Give me a break!" on his 20/20 thing about Micrsosoft. Its not that bad information doesn't get out about Microsoft, its that the majority of the population is uninformed about about alternatives, and the bad company ethics of Microsoft.
      • Re:Just goes to show (Score:5, Interesting)

        by dattaway ( 3088 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @01:21PM (#18769553) Homepage Journal
        I wish the public media would pick up on some of this stuff.

        Public media WILL NOT pick this up. Microsoft and its partners pays for advertising. If you watch any technological article in the media, you will notice they always side on big business.

        Our local newspaper sided on H&R Block with the "free" electronic income tax filing all the way last week. They worded it to say H&R Block was the one who gave consumers this wonderful opportunity. Not trying to take it completely away!
    • by richg74 ( 650636 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @01:41PM (#18769907) Homepage
      You're right. After all, they found the time to shoot this down, right when they're so busy whining that Google's acquisition of DoubleClick will be harmful to competition. As PJ at Groklaw put it, "my irony meter just exploded."
    • Re:Just goes to show (Score:5, Informative)

      by hey! ( 33014 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @03:15PM (#18771627) Homepage Journal
      Actually, while I'm sure they are concerned about OO, I don't think they are that concerned.

      It winning the competition that is at stake, it is owning the ground on which the competition takes place, and therefore being able to set the rules.

      Any time you have a piece of technology that connects two things, owning that technology gives you power over those two things. It's like being a medieval baron with a castle that controls a strategic trade route. It may not be obvious at first, but file formats are a connective technology. They connect the present use of data with the future use of data. An organization that owns a "de facto standard" file format is in the position to directly, dictate which software will be used in the future.

      This issue is much bigger than OO.org. If MS does not control the format in which information is saved, then literally anybody can sell software to their customers. It could be OO, it could be Lotus, it could be Sun or Oracle.

      As long as they control the format, they can keep their customers on the upgrade merry-go-round, and by extension keep OO.org and others from becoming more significant than they find convenient. They can also forestall the emergence of potentially disruptive technologies, for example intranet based office automation, until it suits them.

      It all comes down to the ability of a single vendor to control the future. There is no single point of control that offers a better leverage over the entire software industry than office formats.
  • by WhiteWolf666 ( 145211 ) <sherwinNO@SPAMamiran.us> on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @12:47PM (#18768953) Homepage Journal
    Make a conscious decision to move away from Microsoft technologies, at whatever levels of personal cost you can accept.

    Buy Linux. Buy a Mac.

    Getting on Slashdot and whining about this crap is goofy if you're posting from IE, running XP or Vista, running MS Office; and especially stupid if your a corporate decision maker that hasn't at least spend a good amount of time figuring out if you can migrate from MS.

    MS's business practices are bad. They're rotten to the core, and that's been proven over and over again. Don't do business with them; take it elsewhere.

    It's really not impossible; major corporations have made the jump before, and we're building a first class IT infrastructure that will be MS-free end-to-end.

    Stop whinning. Make a decision. Vote with your $$$, and whenever you have a choice don't buy MS.
    • mmm.. free market (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Mateo_LeFou ( 859634 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @12:50PM (#18769017) Homepage
      "Two other legislative employees (who must also remain anonymous) told Linux.com that the Microsoft lobbyists implied that elected representatives who voted against Microsoft's interests might have a little more trouble raising campaign funds than they would if they helped the IT giant achieve its Florida goals."

      When you're done hooking up your home computers with free software, make sure you notify your elected representatives that you know what bribes look like
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Free market indeed -- as in "not even close". In a free market (under limited government), there wouldn't be much reason to bribe government, would there? You can't get yourself a piece of the pie if the pie doesn't exist in the first place!

        (Just so we're clear, what we have today in the US is not even close to a free market. Indeed, government and its special "right" to employ coercion is more heavily entangled in business than ever before.)
      • make sure you notify your elected representatives that you know what bribes look like

        And when they ask who you're going to vote for instead, you're going to say ... who, exactly?

        Oh, wait, nobody, because there aren't any candidates above the local level who haven't taken the filthy lucre of corporate cash in order to run campaigns. It's so ingrained into the system that unless you vote for yourself or a fringe candidate so far down the ladder that they won't affect the outcome of the election, there's no ch
    • by yankpop ( 931224 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @01:12PM (#18769375)

      Sure, MS uses all kinds of ethically suspect business practices. But if we were all to buy a mac today and continue to use proprietary formats for our data we'd have accomplished absolutely nothing.

      I don't think which OS you use is nearly as important as what formats you use. If we could convince our friends and colleagues that closed formats were unacceptable, and collectively send that message to MS (and Apple, and ...), then things would change. I don't care what OS you use, but it is incredibly aggravating that for no better reason than social inertia I almost have to use .doc formats for my own ideas, at least if I want to share them with my supervisor, journal editors, etc. But once we reject undocumented, closed formats, I don't care what OS and applications you use. If you choose to edit your XML based document in MSWord, that's fine, so long as I can choose to edit that same document in OOo, Abiword, Emacs, ed, awk or whatever else.

      'course, if we agreed to use only open formats, then MS would have to start competing on new features rather than the inconvenience of switching to other systems. But you never know, they might be capable of a few good ideas if we force the issue. That's the real point - not to eliminate MS, but to make them serve the needs of their customers, rather than imposing their will on their customers, and everyone their customers interact with.

      yp.

      • I send .txt files through email whenever I can't just inline the stuff. No one's complained yet; I assume people who use windows are easily opening these in Word or WordPad or lol Works
        • by yankpop ( 931224 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @01:50PM (#18770085)

          Unfortunately, I have to deal with journal editors who require 'word processing' documents, preferably .doc format. I'm not sure why exactly, as they must convert it to something more robust before it gets sent for printing, but at the submission stage it has to be .doc. And my supervisor and several other professional contacts use the 'track changes' option in Word for their comments, which doesn't seem to work with OOo. Thankfully my thesis can be submitted as pdf, so my supervisor is going to have to deal with pdf|rtf|tex for final revisions. She actually prefers to read left-justified double-spaced word documents over tex-formatted pdf output. I think it's a form of 'Stockholm Syndrome'.

          As soon as I graduate, and move a step up from the bottom of the academic ladder, it will be time for some aggressive advocacy in favour of at least .odf, if not .tex, for document exchange. Sadly, as a grad student if you don't follow the rules you don't graduate...

          yp.

      • by Yvan256 ( 722131 )

        If we could convince our friends and colleagues that closed formats were unacceptable, and collectively send that message to MS (and Apple, and ...), then things would change.

        Then I guess you haven't worked with a Mac in over 8 years. Yes, the "old Apple" of pre-OS X was as bad as Microsoft. But IMHO they woke up and started working with the industry instead of trying to force it into proprietary, closed-format crap.

        The "new Apple" has:
        - dropped their own proprietary ports in favor of industry standards (AD

      • Sure, MS uses all kinds of ethically suspect business practices. But if we were all to buy a mac today and continue to use proprietary formats for our data we'd have accomplished absolutely nothing.

        Ahh, but who do you mean? You see there is no chance that everyone will switch to any other OS tomorrow. What we need to do, however, is break MS's monopoly. If 50% of the world switched to macs tomorrow, then regardless of whether or not our formats were proprietary we would have broken MS's ability to leverage their monopoly to control the entire computing landscape. That is accomplishing a lot. That is bringing competition back to the market so that both Apple and MS have to give customers what they wa

    • by Divebus ( 860563 )
      My company is running as far away from Microsoft as possible as fast as it can... the same thing Microsoft does to standards.
    • Give me QuickBooks Pro for Mac with the same functionality as the Windows version and I'll delete Windows off our Macs and be 100% MS free (although I still have to figure out a way to get the "Microsoft Enhanced" logo off my Comcast DVR cable box - drives me nuts having to look at their branding every time I want to watch a show I recorded).
    • I thought Bill already tried and failed. :)

      (Yes, yes, I know, you mean some distry... It just HAD to be said!)
    • Buy Linux. Buy a Mac.

      These are no solutions.

      You don't buy Linux.

      If you're voting to save your dollars, which is what the OSS people are advocating, then buying a more expensive Macintosh is counter to your intended goals, and you still might end up running MSOffice on that Mac.

      Think, folks, before you post. Next thing you'll know, you've ended up agreeing that OO is proprietary, and MSOffice is the open standard.

      It seems that Steve Jobs isn't the only one with a working RDF these days. I'm sure

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Yvan256 ( 722131 )
        The parent wasn't talking about saving money, he was talking about voting with dollars. Well, if don't buy Linux or a Mac, you're not voting with your dollars.

        You have to either buy Linux (over-the-counter box) or a Mac in order to not only lower the revenues of Microsoft, but also increase the cash-counted installed userbase, which seems to be the only things "serious/public" statistics check for. Browsers stats means absolutely nothing (so many variables that it's not even valid as a statistic).
    • Buy Linux. Buy a Mac. Getting on Slashdot and whining about this crap is goofy if you're posting from IE, running XP or Vista, running MS Office; and especially stupid if your a corporate decision maker that hasn't at least spend a good amount of time figuring out if you can migrate from MS.

      Each of us can only do so much but none of us should shut up as you suggest. Migrating what you control from M$ is a great idea but that's hard to do when M$ makes sure everything in your life is done with their cra

  • Heh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by superbus1929 ( 1069292 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @12:48PM (#18768973) Homepage
    I like the nice, thinly veiled reference to campaign fundraising that was made.

    So what's taking so long with election reform again?
    • Money. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by khasim ( 1285 ) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @01:02PM (#18769205)
      The organizations with the money want the political influence.

      The people with the political influence want the money.

      Neither of those groups include the average person.
      • by jimicus ( 737525 )
        The people with the political influence want the money.

        Neither of those groups include the average person.


        Not until you add the third line.

        The people with the political influence also want votes.

        The average person has the votes


        Of course, seeing as (certainly in the US and UK) relatively few people vote, and you can always "buy" votes with ever smarter ads, suddenly the group with the voting power is essentially also the one with the money. (I'll ignore possibly corrupt voting machines, but that's another r
    • "This is a situation that validates the failure in our constitution and the degradation of political system. Lobbyists should not be allowed in government for a company that has a monopoly on a market. If Microsoft wants to have the governments use Microsoft products, they should donate them to the government and get a tax writeoff for it. I should not have to pay taxes so government employees can use substandard expensive software."

      I forget ... what was the hilarious position of Citizens Against Government
    • by Nimey ( 114278 )
      Some people (and I don't understand this position) believe that restricting how much money a person or a corp can give to a political candidate is restricting free speech.

      Yes, they think that money == political speech. Again, I don't understand that.
  • ...wasn't that the plot on an episode of The Sopranos last year?

    So can we hope^H^H^H^H expect to see Ballmer "retired" real soon now by the Florida capos?
  • by geoffrobinson ( 109879 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @12:49PM (#18768999) Homepage
    The last comment about companies which have a vested interest (and let me add Google) in people adopting an open standard is very pertinent.

    What do we expect Microsoft to do? Document standards, in my opinion, are the lynch pin of their entire dominance. Move to open file standards and they are in deep trouble.

    Those companies who want to end that dominance need to step up to the plate. Microsoft has a right to withhold campaign funding. They have a right to lobby. But so do their opponents.
    • by FatSean ( 18753 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @12:58PM (#18769139) Homepage Journal
      That is all that matters. Corporations shouldn't have rights, so I don't give a shit about what Microsoft's 'rights' are. Corporations have their special privledges because these privledges are supposed to impart more value to the citizens of this nation. When a corporation uses its privledges to profit at the expense of the people, they should be punished.

      Of course, Microsoft is one of the few American companies that still produces things for export...the government is always going to give them special treatment.
      • by nine-times ( 778537 ) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @01:36PM (#18769797) Homepage

        Corporations shouldn't have rights, so I don't give a shit about what Microsoft's 'rights' are.

        Just to comment, I find it ironic that people who claim to be in favor of "capitalism" are often the ones who are in favor of this sort of corporate entitlement. They want the government to guarantee that corporations have more rights than citizens. They want the government to give corporations special monopolies, and take various actions to ensure the profitability of inefficient corporations.

        I've been ranting about this a lot lately, but I think it's important: corporations are not entitled to any of this. The government grants formations of corporations for various reasons, but the ultimate reason for that whole system is the benefit of society. However, these entities that we call "corporations" do not have any intrinsic value. Corporations do not have inalienable human rights.

        Owing their existence to the pursuit of our society to benefit itself, corporations have no inherent right to subvert the good of society for their own profitability. If corporations act maliciously or irresponsibly, their value is void and they should be destroyed.

    • by daeg ( 828071 )
      But they don't have to be in deep trouble. If they embraced the open standard, they could easily sell a high-priced, highly-capable office suite that uses it by default and natively. I'd gladly pay for a very stable, very fast, very efficient word processor that handled ODF and let me easily integrate tools with it. No, OpenOffice isn't quite there.

      Microsoft could still maintain their massive market share if they saw it as a way to grow the market instead of simply dominate it.
      • But if they had open document formats, then they'd have to actually "compete" on a "fair" playing field. They haven't done that since they ripped apple's interface schema to layer ontop of dos.
    • Microsoft has a right to withhold campaign funding. They have a right to lobby.

      Rights? What are you talking about? No one has the right to threaten legislators. Offering them money in exchange for votes is also a criminal violation. Even the usual "rights" you might ascribe to a public company have no force when you are talking about a convicted monopolist like M$. Microsoft's reported behavior is unethical at best, criminal at worst.

      • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

        Even the usual "rights" you might ascribe to a public company have no force when you are talking about a convicted monopolist like M$.

        Bzzt. Thanks for playing. One cite, just one cite, of how the "rights ascribed to a corporation" (public company has screw all to do with it) are revoked upon a finding of monopoly. Points off, too, for use of "conviction". Nice appeal to emotion, completely incorrect.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by PitaBred ( 632671 )
          How the hell is this insightful? It's even a blatant lie. Microsoft WAS convicted, even if they weren't punished: http://www.aaxnet.com/editor/edit019.html [aaxnet.com]
    • by twitter ( 104583 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @01:48PM (#18770053) Homepage Journal

      Those companies who want to end that dominance need to step up to the plate.

      They have, of course. Netscape, IBM, Sun, Google, Caldera, Red Hat, Novel, and many others have and are doing everything any company should be expected to do. They are producing superior alternatives and offering them at a fair price. It is only because of M$'s abusive anti-trust activities that their sub standard software "dominates" government and business data transactions. In response to M$'s many abusive practices, many of these companies have gone further than they naturally should. Sun has fostered and supports an entire alternative Office Suite, which is M$'s big money earner, as free software and spends real money reverse engineering M$'s dirty tricks. The result is competitive on both features and cost. When M$ blocks this natural competition by legislative tampering, we all lose the benefits of a free market.

      The size of those losses is the size of Bill Gates' fortune and the pile of money his company sits on. The cost of all the dirty tricks is rolled up in the billion dollars a month they spend on "marketing." Every dollar they spend comes out of your hide. It's part of the cost of everything you buy.

  • by jfengel ( 409917 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @12:50PM (#18769011) Homepage Journal
    FTFA:

    Rep. Homan and his son Doug tried to add their little open standards boost to SB 1974 as quietly as possible. They wanted the modified bill to at least get through its first committee approval before anyone spotted what they had done.
    Let's hear it for open-source legislation. I wonder if anybody else reads Florida's bills before they become laws.

    It doesn't matter what the rules are, or how many foolish insinuations you can make about your enemies' dress codes, if your legislative process lets you put stuff in without anybody knowing about it.
  • I've read the wikipedia article and such, but I still don't see how lobbying is any different than bribery and extortion.

    Is lobbying just a superset of both those things?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Oh come on. Lobbying in and of itself is simply bringing concerns to government, something that is enshrined in the US Constitution. That's not to say that lobbyists and politicians won't misbehave, and will bring the whole system down. The problem with most Western political systems is that lobbying has become a profession in and of itself. It isn't about citizens looking for redress from their representatives, it's about a relatively small number of very large interests poisoning the well. Lobbyists
    • by morgan_greywolf ( 835522 ) * on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @01:03PM (#18769223) Homepage Journal
      Lobbying is a legal occupation that pays somewhere in the high-6-figure to low-7-figure range. Bribery and extortion are crimes that often result in prison time and heavy fines. Other than that, there's not much difference.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by forrestt ( 267374 )
        No:

        Lobbying is a legal occupation that pays somewhere in the high-6-figure to low-7-figure range. Bribery and extortion are crimes that often result in prison time and heavy fines and occur when the lobbyist attempts to lobby with insufficient funding. Other than that, there's not much difference.
      • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @01:43PM (#18769951) Homepage Journal
        This is rather like the difference between the numbers games run by the mob, and a state lottery.

        The mob corrupts the public by offering games of chance. The state lottery corrupts and fleeces the public by offering games of chance with much worse odds than your neighborhood numbers runner. Of course the states have to make running numbers illegal -- it undercuts their product.

        Lobbying is theoretically not like bribery at all. You aren't supposed to give quid pro quos. You just give public servants the benefits of your opinion. You can, in a completely "unrelated" way give modest donations to the candidates who listen to you.

        Which is where campaign finance reform comes in.

        To understand this connection, you have to separate the role of money in campaigns from the influence of money. Candidates use money to get their message out. Money in politics is a good thing. The problem is the influence of money. Some pigs are not supposed to be more equal than others. Just because I donated $1000, I shouldn't be more worth listening to than some other citizen. So while money in politics is a good thing, the influence of money in politics is a bad thing.

        The problem is you cannot get rid of the influence of money by choking off the money supply. In fact you end up throwing out the baby and keeping the bath water. What happens is by the process of elementary economics is that the marginal value of the next dollar becomes much greater. It ensures that obtaining more money is the highest priority of any candidate.

        That's pernicious effect #1. Pernicious effect #2 is that while the price political influence is now at all time low in real dollars, campaign finance reform makes the process of moving dollars to where they are needed awkward. Far from favoring the average citizen, it means that highly professional organizations which do influence peddling on an industrial scale are favored.

        And, like the state lottery, their competition is illegal. You as a citizen can't walk up to your elected representative and pay him an honest buck to do you a favor. You have to use lobbyists, who don't exactly pay him a buck so much as get rid of a buck's worth of headache for him.

        Now, if you want to get rid of the influence of money, there's really only one way to do it. Matching funds. This is not just public funding -- which does not work. In public funding, Candidate A agrees to take public funds and in return limits his spending. This means Candidate B has an incentive to opt out, then raise and spend an unconscionable amount of money. This gives him a clear advantage over A that A cannot match. We can see the uselessness of public funding, which also turns out to increase the marginal value of the next donation dollar. You want your sucker opponents to starve to death on public funding while you feast on special interest donations.

        Matching funds works like this. Candidate A raises $500 million dollars to run for president. The United States Treasury cuts a check to the campaign funds of Candidate's B and C, in the amount of $500 million. Except that it will never happen. Nobody will bother taking the time to raise $500 million when their competitors can spend their time on more worthwhile things, and collect their check at the end of the day.

        But of course, that would be like the states closing down their lotteries and letting their citizens run a legal numbers game.
        • by ivan256 ( 17499 )
          Simple solution: You can't donate to a campaign and lobby the candidate. Pick one.

          Sure, you'd have to be more specific than that in order to avoid loopholes, but you get the general idea...
          • by hey! ( 33014 )
            Simple until (a) you have to prove it is constitutional and (b) plug the various creative loopholes by which people will facilitate donations without technically making them themselves. It's simple really. The Association of Non-Donating Polluters puts in its newsletter that they had a splendid meeting with Congressman Venal. The Association of Non-Lobbying Polluters say, Venal is a man who deserves our support.

            The problem is that as long as there is an incentive to cheat, people will find ways to cheat
        • by ivan256 ( 17499 )
          Incidentally, the problem with matching funds is that you suddenly have hundreds of candidates.

          A better solution to the expense of campaignes (and this wouldn't really work in the presidential campaign, but it would work for every other office) is to disallow contributions from outside of the represented region. For example, a senator would only be able to raise funds in their home state. If a company wanted to contribute they would be limited to a fixed amount ($5?) per full-time employee in that state. Re
          • by hey! ( 33014 )
            The hundreds of candidates is not a likely problem. First of all a party cannot run hundreds of candidates for an office without hurting itself. Secondly, if it is a problem the system would require that the candidate to some modicum of fundraising himself; let's say he gets 100x whatever he has raised up to the amount needed to match the best funded candidate. This would keep the flying saucer party candidate off the presidential ballot, but not, say, the Greens or Libertarians.

            The regional funding ide
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by rolfwind ( 528248 )
            How about disallowing corporations in the political process in the first place?

            Make it so that Microsoft and Lobbyists can't donate a thing. If the shareholders of that company think an issue is important to influence, let them take it out of their own pocket. I'm sure Bill Gates can afford to give his money and I'm sure that stockholders not of his political persuasion will be happy in turn that it isn't their collective money being spent.

            We should remember that giving to campaigns, while tax-deductible,
    • by rlp ( 11898 )
      > I've read the wikipedia article and such, but I still don't see how lobbying
      > is any different than bribery and extortion.

      Simple, one is legal and the others are not.
  • Criminal? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Two other legislative employees (who must also remain anonymous) told Linux.com that the Microsoft lobbyists implied that elected representatives who voted against Microsoft's interests might have a little more trouble raising campaign funds than they would if they helped the IT giant achieve its Florida goals.
    If true, would that be criminal activity?
    • Re:Criminal? (Score:4, Informative)

      by kripkenstein ( 913150 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @02:03PM (#18770341) Homepage
      Actually I don't think it would be. Microsoft are legally allowed to contribute to campaigns (in certain ways, and under certain limitations), and they are not obligated to continue to give donations to people they previously gave to. They can certainly state their displeasure at certain actions those people might take, and not give them any more donations. (IANAL)
  • And then people wonder why I refuse to buy anything from MS.
  • Not Much Sympathy (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    According to the article...

    "Rep. Homan and his son Doug tried to add their little open standards boost to SB 1974 as quietly as possible. They wanted the modified bill to at least get through its first committee approval before anyone spotted what they had done."

    Doesn't exactly strike me as an open or up front method of passing legislation.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Volante3192 ( 953645 )
      And given the ensuing reaction, can't say I'm surprised they tried to sneak it in.

      It's a dark day when well meaning politicans can't even get ideas in the door without being hassled.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Doesn't exactly strike me as an open or up front method of passing legislation.

      They knew what they were up against, given Microsoft's huge pile of money and fanatic opposition to Open Source Anything, combined with their fellow legislators out-right ignorance of technology issues. And given how they were snowed by Microsoft, I don't think I'm being overly harsh in my assessment of the ignorance of those making the laws we have to live by.

      And this was hardly the final vote, or anything.

    • Peter J. Quinn. (Score:5, Informative)

      by twitter ( 104583 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @02:14PM (#18770531) Homepage Journal

      Doesn't exactly strike me as an open or up front method of passing legislation.

      Advertising changes to a bill before you add them is not a common method of modifying bills. The process is as open as can be because everyone will get a chance to comment on it later. What's under the table is threatenting legislators to make sure the item is never talked about.

      After what happened to Peter J. Quinn, everyone has every right to fear the Men in Black. In that case they:

      What policy was that? you might ask. It was simply to use a cheaper, more reliable and more open alternative to M$ Office. Peter Quinn was crucified for thinking his state could save money and have their documents available in digital form 100 year from now if they simply moved away from the M$ domination. For this correct assertion, his reputation and career were damaged.

      M$'s efforts are both civil and criminal violation and those responsible should be held accountable.

      • by dedazo ( 737510 )

        Gave him a hard time and got him to say stupid and counter productive things

        I find it amusing that you can give us all these links and attach your own interpretation to them given that you're the indusputed master of nitpicking and generalizations. The reality is the whole Quinn story looks quite different if you are not approaching it from your quite obvious "free software is teh bestest and M$ Windoze sux" POV. It just doesn't jive in so many ways it's not even funny. But I guess this desperate struggle

  • Absurd Effort (Score:4, Insightful)

    by twitter ( 104583 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @01:02PM (#18769201) Homepage Journal

    So you see the absurd effort M$ must make to continue it's format monopoly. You can imagine they monitor all state legislators and are ready to send in people like this every time. Because there is such a huge performance and cost difference between M$ and their competitor's products, the "men in black" are going to be very busy.

    The only person who has to be more vigilant than a free man is a slave owner.

  • No direct contact (Score:2, Interesting)

    by SuluSulu ( 1039126 )
    This is exactly the reason that lobbyists should not be allowed any direct contact with politicians or their staff. Imagine if they had to submit peer reviewed research/arguments for every proposal.

    Of course the MPAA/RIAA would prove that it would promote piracy, Microsoft would prove that it would encourage the use of closed standards and piracy, and the FBI would say that it would make fighting terrorism and child pornography more difficult.
  • by rossz ( 67331 ) <ogre.geekbiker@net> on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @01:06PM (#18769271) Homepage Journal
    "That's a nice little slush fund you have there. It would be a shame if something were to happen to it."

  • my suit's black you insensitive clods >:(
  • Whack-a-Mole (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Nom du Keyboard ( 633989 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @01:17PM (#18769487)
    Microsoft must win every one of these battles. Let any reasonably sized enterprise outside of Sun/IBM, or governmental entity show that they can use OOS successfully and they'll become an example showing Microsoft's lies. It's a Whack-a-Mole game for MS, and sooner or later they'll miss one.
  • by zerofoo ( 262795 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @01:29PM (#18769671)
    This is Slashdot, so Microsoft will get crucified here for sure, but they are a BUSINESS, and they are working to protect their business. Every shareholder of every company wants management of that company to protect their business. It is their duty to the shareholders.

    The people who should be receiving scorn are the CAREER POLITICIANS who write legislation in exchange for corporate dollars. Substitute any big corporate interest for Microsoft (Tobacco, Oil, Autos....etc) and you will see that Microsoft is not the only company that engages in these shenanigans.

    Sure bitch and whine about Microsoft and how evil they are....you don't have to buy their products.

    I would much rather bitch and whine about elected officials that are not doing the jobs they were elected to do.

    If they take corporate money - vote the fuckers out.

    -ted
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Microsoft is not just any old self serving company. There is a full spectrum of bad corporate behavior and
      Microsoft is way over toward the end where market control by indirect means (political and otherwise)
      dominates over competitive service and products. Additionally the service that they are controlling is vital
      to national security and indirectly to an increasing number of quality-of-life services.

      Unfortunately many would argue that their products and services are superior. As Microsoft reaches deeper
      and
    • Well, maybe. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jd ( 1658 )
      You are correct in pointing out that this is hardly a neutral forum. However, in all fairness, one most point out that images aren't always entirely in the eye of the beholder. (Besides which, Microsoft already employs several Beholders.)

      Seriously, though, you are correct that the legislature is culpable for being influenced in this way. No individual nor any corporation has any business running the Government, which is what this kind of stick/carrot lobbying amounts to, and no government employee (includin

    • why does being a business mean you can be unethical? That single notion which is apparently accepted by many people is the source of a tremendous amount of harm in the world.
    • Your argument falls apart the minute you say that you don't have to buy their product.

      Because you do.

      You work for the government? You get stuck on microsoft office. You want to turn in a document to the government? Most require that it be in a word format.

      While open office can do .doc files, they do not always translate and read 100% perfectly on microsoft software, and so you usually have to use MS Office to check it before sending it in to make sure it shows right, or risk fines or other government penal
  • by doubleDog ( 858514 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @01:30PM (#18769693)
    Watch out, Texas is next -- I hope one of the news agencies pick this up, somebody call 60 Minutes (a CBS TV show). http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/BillLookup/History. aspx?LegSess=80R&Bill=SB446 [state.tx.us]
  • Fuhgeddaboudit!
  • by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @01:34PM (#18769753) Journal
    Here in Colorado, we passed an amendment 41 recently. Roughly, it prevents money from changing hands between lobbyists and (state congress|state employees). What I find interesting is how many congressmen are fighting this. In particular, it is the dems that are most upset. I think that an updated version of 41 is needed for ALL states and then finally at a federal level. But this does not go far enough.

    Joel Hefley was a Colorado congressman who was on the house ethics committee. He was responsible for pushing the ethics committee to go after Delay for his numerous abuses. In turn the republicans booted him out. After having spent many years on the group, he came back that the only way to stop all of this is to move to public Financing of campaigns. Then ALL money would be prevented from moving from ANYBODY to a congressman. Many will fight this, and will claim that it violates their first amendment rights. But every time we have put limits on money flow to congressman, it has been approved by SCOTUS. IOW, it would probably pass muster. This would have a nice benefit in that we would get to see how politicians run a campaign on a limited amount of resources. If they fail at it, then we do not want them. They will prove that they are incapable of running a state|country. This would also stop these kind of wil situations where a companies needs are put above the states or even the countries. This is the cheapest way to get back our gov.
    • I totally agree with you, and have been advocating public funding of campaigns whenever the discussion comes up. Political fund raising must be decoupled from politics otherwise there is a conflict of interest. There are the usual problems like, how low is the bar, does every drunken lunatic who fills out the application for candidacy get campaign funds? There have been numerous discussions on that and other questions like it, and it seems like solutions exist, but I came up with another interesting problem
    • What I find interesting is how many congressmen are fighting this. In particular, it is the dems that are most upset.

      Hmm. That's not what I've read, and at any rate, is a bit misleading.

      Seems to me that most of them are fighting some of the unintended consequences of Amendment 41, such as kids of state employees (even very low-paid employees) being ineligible for scholarships.

      At any rate, the big problem with prohibiting gifts to legislators, other than free speech issues, is that only the already wealth

  • Sing along (Score:4, Funny)

    by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @01:38PM (#18769837)
    Here come the Men in Black
    Monopoly Defenders
    Here come the Men in Black
    Cash your party members

    • I'm almost certain there was a "for" between Cash and your... that's what happens when you change the text around 'til it fits, only to find out you fu..ed up a perfectly good punchline by putzing around too long with it.

      Gah.
  • From the current version:

    (e) Not earlier than July 1, 2008, define the
    26 architecture standards for enterprise information technology
    27 and develop implementation approaches for statewide migration
    28 to those standards. ...
    31 (13)(10) "Standards" means the use of current, open,
    *snipped for readablity*
    1 nonproprietary, or non-vendor-specific technologies.

    I am thinking 282.0041(13) could be changed to say " nonproprietary, and non-vendor-specific technologies." and it would have the same

  • has every suggested to a politician that their financial support or vote might be in jeopardy if he didn't support their position. Apparently many politicians have become suddenly interested in the details of file formats because they certainly weren't informed by anyone pushing open standards. That might be seen as lobbying and that's wrong.
  • by the_macman ( 874383 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @02:08PM (#18770447)
    I live in Florida and this infuriates me! I DO NOT want MS bossing around my legislators. So a call to action for those who care about this. Write a letter to the Representative Ed Homan. Feel free to copy my template.

    Capitol Office:
    317 House Office Building
    402 South Monroe Street
    Tallahassee, FL 32399-1300
    Phone: (850) 488-3087

    District Office:
    Suite 311
    9385 N. 56th Street
    Temple Terrace, FL 33617-5505
    Phone: (813) 983-3330

    Legislative Assistant:
    Janet Roder

    District Secretary:
    Paula Tonelli

    Representative Ed Homan,
    I am writing to express my extreme displeasure with the recent successful lobbying efforts by Microsoft regarding Senate Bill 1974. As a tax payer of this state I am disgusted that the Congress of this state would cave to the wants and desires of a monopolistic company who have no intentions of serving the people or the state but only seek to increase their already enormous financial wealth. I am huge proponent of open standards and open software. The prospect of having open source software running on government computers is highly desirable. Millions of tax payer dollars could be saved by switching to free operating systems such as Ubuntu Linux (www.ubuntu.com) and switching to free office solutions like OpenOffice (www.openoffice.org). If Microsoft wants to have the governments use Microsoft products, they should donate them to the government and get a tax write off for it. I should not have to pay taxes so government employees can use substandard expensive software. When large monopolistic corporations send lobbyists to ensure the will of the Microsoft is fulfilled I should be able to have faith that my Congress will represent me accurately and realize the lies and untruths these lobbyists are spreading about open source software. Please consider ratifying the bill and rewriting it to embrace open standards and open source software. Thank you.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Roblimo ( 357 ) Works for SourceForge
      If you write to Rep. Homan, it should be to thank him for supporting open standards. He's the good guy here.

      And rather than sending negative letters to other state legislators, how about teaching them what open standards are and about the positive attributes of open source?

      The biggest problem with the legislators on this issue isn't corruption, but ignorance. Most of them have never really heard of a "Linux." They get their information about IT from the same media sources as their constituents.

      Education is
  • Microsoft is says there stuff is open and free and that that's a good thing.
    So now we just have to inform the legislators that Microsoft's format isn't but open and free is still good. They have got us half way there.
  • because when they come up for re-election I'm voting for the other guy!

    PS: I live in the 'sunshine state' and I'm pissed!
    PPS: Common IBM, show some backbone and lobby back!
  • "A legislative staff employee who would lose his job if he were quoted here by name said, 'By the time those lobbyists were done talking, it sounded like ODF (Open Document Format, the free and open format used by OpenOffice.org and other free software) was proprietary and the Microsoft format was the open and free one.'

    OK. But when looking at the disputed text of this legislation as shown on the linked article, it would seem that anyone believing this ODF=proprietary MS=open hullubaloo, would also believe

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