The UK Guardian got its hands on an e-mail that PR agency Burson-Marsteller has sent out to various UK businesses. According to the Guardian, B-M, on behalf of Microsoft, is seeking support for a new organization -- the "Initiative for Competitive Online Marketplaces" -- which is gearing up to make a bunch of pronouncements regarding Google, Internet privacy and copyright.
The timing of the anti-Google campaign is seemingly designed to coincide with the U.S. Congress', U.S. Federal Trade Commission's and the European Commission's pending investigations of Google's $3.1 billion takeover of DoubleClick. Both Microsoft and the No. 2 search vendor, Yahoo, have objected to the deal that would merge the two biggest online advertisers. (In an ironic twist, Microsoft also bid on DoubleClick, but lost, and subsequently acquired advertising bigwig aQuantive for $6 billion.)
I guess folks have forgotton that:
- Microsoft hired lobbying firm Patton Boggs earlier this year to help try to derail the Google-DoubleClick merger. As of September, Microsoft had paid Patton Boggs $40,000.
- Microsoft lobbies in its own interests all the time, using a variety of tactics -- from pushing online petitions, to backing other organizations with innocuous-sounding names ("Voices for Innovation," for instance) -- to build what it hopes might look like grassroot support on a variety of issues, including document-format standards and the right to bundle standalone products into Windows.
- On the flip side, Google spent at least $580,000 in the first six months of 2007 to lobby the U.S. government regarding its various telecommunications, commerce and other interests. Just like Microsoft came to understand, Google is slowly learning that it can't ignore Washington as it grows.
Lobbying isn't illegal. It's the trying to pretend you aren't lobbying when you are that is shoddy.