As the Spin Spins: Redmond's Propaganda Punch Wired News Report 10:47am 10.Apr.98.PDT A particularly odorous bit of Microsoftian dirty laundry was hung out to dry today, just as the finely pressed suits of Redmond, Washington, arrived at the doors of the Justice Department. The software superpower has been covertly preparing a media campaign designed to look like a massive show of public support, in hopes of convincing state investigators that the Redmond Empire isnt such an evil one after all, the Los Angeles Times reported. The plan calls for "articles, letters to the editor, and opinion pieces" to be written by Microsoft-commissioned spin doctors, but presented as glowing testimonials from local businesspeople who love working with the likes of Bill Gates, reported the paper, which said it had obtained a copy of the strategic proposal. Unidentified sources in the article said that the campaign is supposed to look like "an eruption of grass-roots support." Microsoft officials first denied the story, then admitted to the plan, telling the Times it was an idea that wouldnt necessarily be acted upon. News of the clandestine plan broke just a day after the software behemoth began placing full-page ads in publications like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal to defend its position in an ongoing battle with the Justice Department. The effort to get some positive press comes amid suggestions that the federal government is considering a new, broader antitrust suit against Microsoft, while state governments prepare their own charges. This morning Microsoft General Counsel William Neukom and four other lawyers and executives met with Assistant Attorney General Joel Klein and other top antitrust officials to open a high-level dialogue about the companys alleged anti-competitive practices. However, the Microsoft team left the meeting without giving any indication of what was discussed. Some Justice Department staff lawyers say they believe the federal government now has enough evidence to file charges against Microsoft. In an interview this week in Washington state, Microsoft Chief Operating Officer Bob Herbold said the company was in daily contact with federal antitrust authorities and was providing information to state investigators. Eleven states are preparing to file antitrust charges against Microsoft, sources close to the investigation have said. They said the states would accuse Microsoft of using its dominance over computer operating systems to extend its control to related areas, such as the Internet. California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, South Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin are involved in the case and others may join, a source said. In October 1997, the federal government filed allegations that Microsoft violated a 1995 consent decree that was supposed to help ease the way for increased software competition. The Justice Department has argued Microsoft defied the decree and competed unfairly against Netscape Communications in the market for browsers. But Microsoft has asked an appellate court to throw out the government's charges, arguing that it was exercising a right under the decree to integrate a Web browser into its operating system. The expedited appeal will be argued before a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on 21 April. Reuters contributed to this report.
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