No evidence has been revealed that suggests corruption in the lobbying Abramoff did for tech-industry clients. However, reform advocates say the scandal will affect all businesses seeking influence in Washington as all lobbyists find themselves in the spotlight. "Corporate America is seen as hiring lobbyists who will do anything to get the access," said Mary Boyle, spokesperson for Common Cause, a public advocacy group in Washington. "We think the message to corporate America is that this is not business as usual anymore. Everyones got to take the rules seriously."Between 1998 and 2000, Abramoff lobbied on bills covering encryption, online commerce and copyright protection, and his firm received more than $320,000 from the BSA. He sought influence on these issues alongside fellow Greenberg Traurig lobbyists, including a former U.S. congressman from North Carolina, a former general counsel and chief of staff for the CIA, and a former deputy chief of staff for Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas. The BSA declined to comment for this article. Ties between Abramoff and DeLay, who last year was forced to give up his position as majority leader of the House after being indicted by a Texas grand jury in December on charges of conspiracy involving campaign finance, have cast a shadow over other lobbying operations connected with DeLay. As part of the scandals fallout, Microsoft will lose one of its high-powered outside lobbying firms, the Washington-based Alexander Strategy Group. ASG, which was set up in 1998 and is owned by a former chief of staff to DeLay, is closing shop because of the bad publicity surrounding Abramoff. From mid-2003 to mid-2005, Microsoft paid ASG $315,000 to lobby members of Congress on tax legislation, including R&D tax credits. Among the ASG lobbyists working for Microsoft was Tony Rudy, another former DeLay aide, who worked for Abramoff prior to joining ASG. The tangled web of lobbyists, current and former congressmen, and current and former aides prompted Reps. Marty Meehan, D-Mass., and Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., to introduce lobbying reform legislation last May. In July, Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., introduced a bill that would require lobbyists to name their specific contacts on Capitol Hill and would subject lawmakers who take favors in exchange for official acts to fines and removal from office. In light of Abramoffs guilty plea, many more members of Congress are joining the initiative. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. introduced a bill that would require lobbyists to file disclosure forms quarterly and report contributions to campaigns and political action committees. It would also lengthen the current one-year ban on ex-lawmakers and aides lobbying their former employees to two years. Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., signed on as a co-sponsor of the bill last week, giving it hefty bipartisan support. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis of technologys impact on government and politics.
The Business Software Alliance, a Washington-based trade group funded by Microsoft and other prominent IT companies, also put Abramoff to work when he was at Preston Gates & Ellis. In 2000, Abramoff hobnobbed with lawmakers and officials in Vice President Dick Cheneys office, as well as 11 federal agencies, to promote software export controls and trade laws with China that would be favorable to BSA members, according to Senate records.