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Microsoft “playing dumb” on anti-abortion donations, activists say


Microsoft “playing dumb” on anti-abortion donations, activists say

Microsoft isn’t the only company that seems to contradict its own politics by promising to cover abortion travel costs for employees, while at the same time donating to political action committees that funded the governors and attorneys general who fought to overturn Roe v. Wade. However, Microsoft is one of the biggest donors that helped install so many anti-abortion officials over time. The Center for Political Accountability (CPA) told Bloomberg that since 2010, Microsoft donated $3 million to Republican groups doggedly working to end abortion in America.

Microsoft might be donating to these groups for any number of reasons, but a UK activist shareholder group called Tulipshare says the company should change its political giving policy to resist political contradictions and increase transparency. To put pressure on Microsoft, Tulipshare partnered with CPA. Together, they propose that Microsoft release an annual report that would publicly connect the dots between the money Microsoft donates, the elected officials those donations support, and the specific causes that those elected officials support. Such a report could end any company claims about incidental anti-abortion donations.

According to Jenna Armitage, Tulipshare’s chief marketing officer, the activist group’s strategy is to “engage with Microsoft’s investor relations department” to request the annual report. That report would ideally “mandate that the company require political action committees it funds to say which candidates and causes they support.” If Microsoft rejects the proposal, Tulipshare’s next step would be to prompt investors to “introduce a shareholder motion.”

“We’re asking Microsoft to demand more transparency from the political groups they donate to so that no one can play dumb about what that money is funding,” Armitage tells Ars. “In this scenario,” Republican groups “would have to report their spending to Microsoft, and Microsoft would have to report that spending to its shareholders.”

If Tulipshare succeeds with its proposal, for the first time, Microsoft would be required to take a hard look in full public view at where its political giving goes and how that aligns with the organization’s stated politics. Tulipshare’s goal is to push Microsoft to stop all anti-abortion donations and lobbying efforts, holding the company accountable to the core values seemingly reflected by concerns over Microsoft employees maintaining safe access to reproductive health care.

Armitage says it’s wrong to mislead employees about the full scope of a company’s politics. “You see a lot of companies hopping on this woke marketing opportunity to speak out against something, whether it be to attract more recruits, to just kind of insert themselves into the media, when actually their political activities say otherwise,” Armitage said.

According to OpenSecrets, so far in 2022, Microsoft is ranked No. 2 ($293,500)—tied with Google ($283,500) and behind only PricewaterhouseCoopers ($500,500)—on a list of 15 companies “that pledged to cover travel expenses related to abortion” while their corporate PACs donated to politicians who recently voted against the Women’s Health Protection Act. That law would have codified abortion but failed to pass a Senate vote when no Republicans voted for it. Microsoft donated $233,000 to 119 of those anti-abortion politicians who voted no, giving the maximum donation ($5,000) to nine.

It will be up to Microsoft leadership to decide if such a report would benefit the company’s reputation at this moment. But OpenSecrets suggests it’s clear that Microsoft’s donations support anti-abortion causes, because groups receiving donations make clear how the money will be used. One of the groups that received Microsoft donations, the Republican Attorneys General Association, immediately emailed supporters on June 24 to ask for donations after Roe v. Wade was overturned, promising that “every donation will help Republican Attorneys General combat the Democrats’ pro-abortion agenda and stand tall for life.”

A Microsoft spokesperson declined to comment to both Bloomberg and Ars.

Microsoft historically donates to both Democrats and Republicans through its corporate PACs, and OpenSecrets notes that out of all 15 companies, Microsoft was the only company showing “a trend of contributing more to Democratic groups over time.” This could suggest the company is working to be more cognizant of how political giving contradicts its politics not just on abortion, but also on other Democratic issues that Microsoft supports, like climate change or LGBTQ+ protections.



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