According to a report this weekend in the Washington Post, Microsoft Corporation has at least partially succeeded in getting the U.S. Congress to reduce funding next year for the Department of Justice (DOJ), which brought the company to trial for antitrust violations last year. The report states that Microsoft urged House and Senate leaders to cut $9 million from proposed funding for the agency and, indeed, funding was voted down $9 million, from $114.3 million to $105.2 million by the House. The Senate approved a budget of $112.3 million, however, so a conference committee will be established to determine the actual budget.
"It's like the Mafia trying to defund the FBI," an anonymous member of the Washington antitrust bar told the Post.
Microsoft actually acknowledged that it had been speaking to Congress about DOJ funding.
"We have certainly been talking to members who asked about this issue and discussed our serious concerns with the way the DOJ has handled our case," said Microsoft spokesperson Rick Miller. However, cutting funds was "not a major priority of Microsoft."
"We think that the Justice Department's law enforcement budget should be based on the needs of law enforcement, not based on a single interest," retorted DOJ spokesperson Gina Talamona.
Meanwhile, Microsoft CEO Bill Gates, in London for a meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair, told the BBC that he was "surprised" by the antitrust lawsuit against his company.
"No observer could say we haven't shown how competitive our business is," Gates said.
Gates also took the time to refute an attack made by newspaper magnate Rupert Murdoch, who claimed that Gates and Microsoft want to "take over the world."
"He's hiding behind me. He's your man," Gates said. "\[Running Microsoft is\] not like owning a newspaper. Someone who owns a newspaper can pick up the phone to the editor and say 'run headlines I like'. What we do is create tools like a word processor that lets people express their ideas and we're not at all involved in how they choose to use it. The thing we're involved with has democratized communications and anyone can publish on the internet. You don't have to own a TV channel or a newspaper.