Bush's EU man attacked for Microsoft links

The nomination of a pro-Microsoft lawyer to represent US interests in the EU has angered the Free Software Foundation Europe

The Free Software Foundation Europe has criticised President Bush's decision to nominate a long-time ally of Microsoft as the US representative to the European Union.

C. Boyden Gray, a lawyer who lobbied on behalf of Microsoft during the US antitrust battle with the Justice Department, was named by Bush late last month as his choice to be America's next EU ambassador.

Georg Greve, the president of FSF Europe, claimed on Monday that this appointment shows the level of political control that Microsoft holds in the US. "[It] is quite an explicit statement of who truly holds the political power," said Greve in an email.

Gray's selection, which must be confirmed by the Senate, comes at a critical time in the EU's antitrust case against Microsoft — the European Commission (EC) is expected to make a decision on whether Microsoft has complied with last year's antitrust ruling later this year.

Greve said that until now the EU has shown itself to be less influenced by lobbyists than the US, but was concerned this may change. "We can only encourage the European Commission to stay true to its course and not let US company interests rule over those of European consumers and economy," said Greve.

The EC did not respond to requests for comment at the time of writing.

Gray is co-chairman of the group Citizens for a Sound Economy, which advocates free-market positions with a focus on taxes and government regulation. CSE and other similarly-minded groups received cash from Microsoft during its long-running antitrust war with the US Justice Department and state attorneys general.

In 1999, Gray wrote a letter to each of the state attorneys general in which he said: "Microsoft is a leader because they did it the old-fashioned way. They built a company from the ground up, not through mergers and acquisitions, but through ideas and valuable products combined with clever marketing and aggressive sales."

Gray also worked on a legal brief filed on Microsoft's behalf in November 2000. It argued against breaking up Microsoft, saying US District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's decision "will stifle growth, innovation, and competition in the technology industry; the remedy imposed will harm consumers and throw the industry into confusion about the new rules restricting competition."

A year later, Gray organised a conference call to deny allegations of Microsoft wrongdoing. One participant on the call said: "By creating a PR war, by trying to do lobbying in Congress, by trying to get products prevented from being shipped, these are all efforts to prevent Microsoft from entering the marketplace."

CNET News.com's Declan McCullagh contributed to this report.