Microsoft OK to Help Candidates Curb Cyber Threats, FEC Says

Bloomberg Government

Microsoft Corp. may offer special cybersecurity assistance to political candidates without violating campaign finance rules against corporate contributions, the Federal Election Commission ruled. Microsoft asked for the FEC’s approval of a plan to offer “enhanced online security services” to “election sensitive customers” as part of a new initiative called “Account Guard.” The program responds to heightened concerns following Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The Microsoft plan was approved by a 4-0 vote of the FEC commissioners during an Sept. 6 meeting.

The FEC approved the advisory opinion after agreeing to changes emphasizing the foreign interference threat. The changes were prompted by a comment letter filed by the nonprofit Campaign Legal Center. The CLC letter cautioned against a broad ruling that could give Microsoft and other tech companies too much leeway to provide assistance to – and curry favor with – candidates and officeholders. The CLC said the ruling should not open “the door to corporations secretly providing free goods and services to candidates.”

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