Bush Justice Department Won't Beat Up Microsoft

By Melanie Arter | July 7, 2008 | 8:28 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - Different administration, different attitude toward Microsoft: The Bush Justice Department Wednesday said it is not interested in seeking a court-ordered breakup of the software giant.

"The Department of Justice Antitrust Division today advised Microsoft that it will not seek a break-up of the company in remand proceedings before the U.S. District Court," said the Justice Department in a statement.

"The Department is seeking to streamline the case with the goal of securing an effective remedy as quickly as possible," it added.

A federal appeals court recently overturned a lower-court order that Microsoft be split into two separate companies.

"It's hardly a surprise that the Bush/Ashcroft Justice Department has flip-flopped and is no longer seeking an effective remedy against Microsoft," said Scott Harshbarger, president of Common Cause, a nonprofit, nonpartisan citizen's lobbying organization, promoting open, honest and accountable government.

"Microsoft put their bets on this horse and now it is time to collect their winnings," Harshbarger said. "This company performed an illegal operation but they will not be shut down. Nor, evidently, will they face any penalty likely to deter them from anticompetitive, predatory, and monopolistic behavior in the future."

He added: "This is a campaign finance system which allowed a corporation like Microsoft to give $10,000 in otherwise impermissible corporate money into then-Senator John Ashcroft's shadowy soft money fund. This is a campaign finance system that allowed the Republican party to collect more than a million dollars from this one company alone in the 2000 election cycle, and another six-figures or so this year."

The Americans for Tax Reform, a nonpartisan coalition of taxpayers and taxpayer groups who oppose all federal and state tax increases, praised the Justice Department's decision.

"The Microsoft trial squandered taxpayers' dollars, was a nuisance to consumers, and a serious deterrent to investors in the high-tech industry. But from now on, American taxpayers will no longer see millions of their dollars wasted in a ridiculous case brought on by Microsoft's competitors," said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform.

"Consumers will indeed see competition in the marketplace, rather than the courtroom. And the investors who propel our economy can finally breathe a sigh of relief. The unmitigated hubris of the Clinton-Gore administration's willingness to meddle in the world of commerce has finally come to an end," Norquist said.

He said over 60 percent of Americans felt the federal government had no business breaking up Microsoft.

"Competition means creating goods and offering superior services to consumers. With government out of the business of stifling progress and tying the hands of corporations, consumers - rather than bureaucrats and judges - will once again pick the winners and losers on Wall Street," Norquist concluded.

CNS Staff Writer Christine Hall contributed to this report.

See Earlier Story:

Bush's Expected Choice For Antitrust Division Touted Microsoft's 'Consumer Benefit' (Feb. 14, 2001)