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Tapping Tommy Microsoft has hired Washington giant Patton Boggs to lobby against the Google-DoubleClick merger. The decision to hire one of Washington’s biggest firms and most powerful influence brokers — name partner Thomas Boggs Jr. — shows the software giant is willing to put significant resources behind its push to derail the deal. Besides bringing on Boggs himself, Microsoft also retained Patton Boggs partner Jonathan Yarowsky, who specializes in antitrust and technology issues. Yarowsky also represents Verizon, which has opposed the merger. The third Patton Boggs lobbyist on the team is Kathleen Ireland, who specializes in telecommunications. Patton Boggs declined a request for comment on the firm’s work for Microsoft. But when it comes to antitrust issues, companies frequently retain lobbyists who can work on two tracks, to help voice objections to regulators with authority over the pending deal, and to make a case to lawmakers in a position to raise questions or hold hearings on the merger. Patton Boggs filed disclosures registering Microsoft as a client — a requirement under the Lobbying Disclosure Act — on Aug. 9, but said the registration was effective as of May 15. In a midyear report last month, the firm reported making roughly $40,000 from the Microsoft account so far and said it had lobbied on Microsoft’s behalf with both the House and the Senate. Microsoft, long resistant to the charms of K Street, now spends millions of dollars on lobbying. But much of that money has been for lobbying on other issues that affect the tech behemoth, which has often found itself the subject of government antitrust scrutiny in the past. This time, however, it’s on the same side as many Internet privacy advocates who have been on the opposite side of the fence in the past. Jeff Chester is the executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, a nonprofit that works to ensure digital media serve the public’s interest. The group is opposing the Google-DoubleClick merger, but also fought Microsoft’s acquisition of ad firm aQuantive, which wasn’t blocked by federal regulators. Being on the same side as Microsoft helps — to a point, Chester says. “No question about it, it has left an impression on policy-makers that makes the work of independent advocates such as myself…somewhat easier,” Chester admits. “They have unlimited resources to hire whoever they wish.” — Carrie Levine
You’re on Notice As threats through the mail go, they’re pretty mild. The D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office has recently sent out about 200 notices of compliance to lobbyists asking that they get their biannual Lobbying Disclosure Act paperwork in order. Keith Morgan, a deputy chief U.S. attorney in the Civil Division, says the goal isn’t to scare anyone, just prod them a little. The message is, “If you don’t [file], we can bring this action,” Morgan says. “Not that we plan to, but we can.” The U.S. Attorney’s Office has been getting more referrals from the Senate Office of Public Records since the lobbying disclosures were computerized a few years ago. In the spring of 2006, Morgan’s office made a similar push. “I am looking for firms that have a lot of clients, do a lot of lobbying, and have a lot of forms missing,” Morgan says, citing the threat such offenders pose to the integrity of the filing data. Most of the time, firms respond with either a quick correction and an apology or a “the dog ate my lobbying form” excuse, Morgan says. Earlier in the decade, the U.S. attorney ended up negotiating civil penalties with a few offending firms, but there’s been no action since at least 2004. Could this be the year prosecutors actually file a complaint? “I don’t want to have a timetable,” he says, “but we might.” — Jeff Horwitz
Out of Pocket Before disbanding for the August recess, the Democratic Congress passed an overhaul of lobbying and ethics laws touted as the most significant new disclosure requirements in years. So why hasn’t the president signed it yet? For one thing, it still hasn’t landed on his desk. Why is that? In a word: politics. Sending the bill over during the recess would have given President George W. Bush the option of a pocket veto: If he doesn’t sign the legislation for 10 days after receiving it, it counts as a veto and Congress can’t override it. Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), says Democrats weren’t sure what the president would do with the legislation (which some powerful Republicans opposed) and so decided to wait. “We’ll send it down next week, and the president can make a decision about whether he supports comprehensive lobbying and ethics reform or not,” Manley says. — Carrie Levine

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