Campaigns, Parties Can Accept Free Service From Microsoft, FEC Says

Roll Call

Federal campaigns and national party committees can accept free security services from the Microsoft Corporation after a recent Federal Election Commission ruling. But one watchdog group called it an unprecedented opening for corporations looking to influence lawmakers and skirt campaign finance laws.

The ruling, approved by a 4-0 vote at a commission hearing Thursday, noted the potentially “severe and long-term” damage to the Microsoft brand if a campaign were breached by hackers, especially considering the, “public scrutiny regarding foreign attempts to influence U.S. elections.”

Opponents of the change said the exception was too broad.

“If that is the standard, then pretty much any corporation could give anything to a candidate, because they always do it for business reasons,” said Adav Noti, an attorney for the nonprofit Campaign Legal Center and a former associate general counsel at the Federal Election Commission. “It’s a loophole you could drive a truck through.” Noti said the FEC has denied similar requests from other corporations. “If I were a campaign finance lawyer who had corporate clients, I would certainly alert them to this and see what they could do with it,” he said.

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