Microsoft President Brad Smith attends a panel discussion with U.S. President Donald Trump and industry executives on the reopening of the country in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, DC on May 29, 2020.
Almond Ngan | AFP | Getty Images
A senior Microsoft executive defended the company’s approach to supporting political campaigns in a meeting with employees on Thursday. This emerges from a transcript of the meeting verified by CNBC.
Microsoft President and Chief Justice Brad Smith said Microsoft is examining options for the Microsoft Political Action Committee (MSPAC), which has been criticized by employees for helping to fund the campaigns by members of Congress to target Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated allegations of fraud in the 2020 presidential election supported.
Microsoft employees in the US can donate a portion of their income to MSPAC, but they have no direct control over which candidates it donates to. On Jan. 11, the company announced it had on hold on donations following the Jan. 6 riot attempt when rioters poured into the U.S. Capitol during the electoral college count formalizing Joe Biden’s victory. The MSPAC had donated to several Republican members of Congress who tried to delay the electoral college’s formal vote, despite no evidence of widespread electoral fraud.
Several other companies, including Amazon, Facebook and Google, also temporarily stopped making political donations after the events.
On January 13, a Microsoft employee, Carmen Crincoli, called for the company to stop supporting members of Congress who voted against the results of the electoral college and stop giving direct funds to elected officials and candidates. He said if the company can’t do these things it should shut down MSPAC and ask employees to look at the policy individually.
Smith, who articulates Microsoft’s position on political issues, responded to the complaints.
“The questions being considered are exactly what you would expect. Should the PAC suspend donations to members who voted against the electoral college? If so, how long?” Smith said to the staff on Thursday.
But he also gave an open explanation of why the MSPAC was important to Microsoft’s interests:
“I can tell you it matters. Not because the checks are big, but because the way the political process works. Politicians in the United States have events, they have weekend retreats, you have to Write a check and then you? When you work on the Government Affairs team in the US, you spend your weekends on these events, your evenings on those dinners, and that’s because the PAC writes a check.
“But as a result of that ongoing effort, a relationship develops and grows, and I can tell you that as someone who sometimes picks up the phone, I sometimes call members and ask them for help with green cards or visa issues. Or Help bring an employee or family member who is outside the US during Covid back into the country due to immigration restrictions.
“Or the problems related to national security, privacy or procurement reform. Or the tax problems our finance team manages. And I can tell you there are times when I call people I don’t know personally and someone will say it. ” “You know, your people always showed up for me at my events. And we have a good relationship. Let me see what I can do to help you.”
Microsoft declined to comment on Smith’s remarks.
In 2020, hundreds of Facebook employees took part in a protest over the company’s decision to keep contributions from former President Donald Trump, and in 2018, Google employees protested a contract the company made to provide cloud services for the Pentagon had to close, and prompted the company not to renew the contract.
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