Microsoft Shines a Light on Corporate Transparency in Politics

Yesterday, I was pleased to participate in The Conference Board’s 2011 Symposium on Political Spending to discuss the principles and policies that guide Microsoft when we make political contributions.

We recognize that our company, our stakeholders (employees, shareholders and partners) and civil society as a whole, are all greatly impacted by the decisions of elected officials. As a result, we believe that constructive engagement in the political process on behalf of shareholders’ interest is an important element of good corporate citizenship. In the United States, this includes making political contributions.

Microsoft is recognized as one of a handful of corporate leaders in this area. Our decisions are guided by a set of very specific policies that place a premium on the principles of accountability, transparency, integrity and responsibility. We work hard to ensure that our participation in the political process takes place in the light of day and for reasons that are immanently understandable and justifiable to our shareholders and the public.

In the wake of the ‘Citizens United’ decision – the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling prohibiting the government from banning independent political broadcasts by corporations in candidate elections –there is growing interest in understanding how corporations are participating in the political process. That’s why Microsoft has adopted the practice of semi- annually posting all our political contributions on our public website. We also recognize that our leadership in this space is reflected by the practices we have decided not to adopt, including not allowing our trade association dues to be used for electioneering or independent expenditures, and not contributing to 527 organizations (groups formed solely to influence elections and to which there are no upper limits on contributions).

As we move into another campaign season – and with another presidential campaign only a year away – Microsoft intends to remain a leader in the field, and will continue to engage in this important civic conversation.

About the Author

Senior Director, Corporate Citizenship, Microsoft