Microsoft’s $1.6 Million Man

He's righteous conservative consultant-turned-candidate Ralph Reed.

After it was disclosed a year ago that Microsoft had retained Ralph Reed Jr. for lobbying and consulting work, a mystery remained. How much was the Christian conservative and anti-gay-rights crusader paid by the Redmond software giant? Microsoft refused to say, but now Reed has had to disclose the income. It comes to a substantial $1.6 million over five years, according to Reed’s personal financial documents.

Reed revealed the payments, made from 2001 through last year, in a May 1 filing with the Georgia State Ethics Commission. He is seeking election to be that state’s lieutenant governor. The filing, required of candidates who have worked as lobbyists in Georgia, reveals that Reed was paid $572,000 by Microsoft in 2001, $240,000 in 2002, $401,000 in 2003, $240,000 in 2004, and $117,500 in 2005. That income and another $90,000 consulting for Enron, among others helped bump his current personal worth to $4.6 million, he disclosed.

The former Christian Coalition leader turned political consultant did not have to reveal payments by Microsoft prior to that five-year period. But Reed was known to have been on Microsoft’s payroll in 2000, when George W. Bush began his White House campaign (see “A Bug in Windows GOP,” June 1, 2005) and for several years prior, which could bring his total Microsoft income to $2 million or more. While working for Bush in 2000, Reed worked on Microsoft’s behalf for settlement of the company’s landmark antitrust lawsuit. Reed asked supporters to write his candidate, Bush, in support of his client, Microsoft. He ultimately apologized for the “misperception” that might have caused.

At the same time in 2000, Reed was working as a subcontractor for Seattle-based Preston Gates Ellis, the law and lobbying firm of the father of Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates. Reed became involved with other religious-right Republicans in what would become today’s Lobbygate scandal. Money from the law firm was funneled through key scandal figure Jack Abramoff and tax-reform guru Grover Norquist to help Reed run a deceptive antigambling campaign in the South. (See “Choctaw Cash,” July 6, 2005.)

In 2004, Microsoft paid Reed a $20,000 monthly retainer while he again campaigned for Bush, playing a major role as the party’s Southeast regional campaign coordinator. Exactly what duties he performed for Microsoft haven’t been revealed. Says Ginny Terzano, spokesperson for Microsoft in D.C.: “While we typically do not discuss consultant retainers, it was made public last spring that Microsoft hired Century Strategies, Ralph Reed’s consulting firm, in the late 1990s, to consult on issues related to international trade and competition.” The firm was terminated in 2005, she said, “when we decided that it would not be appropriate to have a consultant on retainer that was seeking elective office at the same time.”

Microsoft dropped Reed, a notorious opponent of gay-rights laws, about the time the company was also suffering a public-relations meltdown for failing to support a gay-rights bill in Olympia, which was defeated. The company did a U-turn and threw its support to the bill this year, and it passed. It will take effect in June.