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Payoff for Microsoft 

Make way for the Gucci Gulch Gang! These gunslingers include Haley Barbour, former Republican Party chairman; Tom Downey, a former Democratic congressman; Vin Weber, a former Republican lawmaker; Slade Gorton, a former Republican senator; Jack Quinn, former White House counsel to Bill Clinton; C. Boyden Gray, former White House counsel to George Bush the First; and Lloyd Cutler, former White House counsel to both Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.

These Washington warriors are all hired guns for Microsoft. Their Guccis are scuffed, their cell-phone batteries are run down, their briefcases are battered and their red power ties are askew, but they're all grins, for they've just won a big shootout.

They're part of the army of hotshot lobbyists who were paid $6 million by the software giant to twist arms, use their insider influence, dole out political contributions to key players and spread an ample layer of B.S. around the city — all to get the government to drop its antitrust lawsuit against the monopolist.

Having been a big financial backer of George W. Bush's campaign, and having paid $100,000 to help finance George's inauguration festivities, it was known that Microsoft had a buddy in the White House, but even the political supporters of the corporation were amazed by how quickly and how completely the Bush legal team capitulated.

In office barely eight months, the Bushites "settled" the lawsuit by dropping the core charge and giving in on the key remedy of breaking up the abusive corporation. It was such a blatant payback that a White House spokesman had to be trotted out to insist that Microsoft's campaign contributions had no influence in the decision, even asserting that while George was briefed on the case, "he played no role in the decision."

This is Jim Hightower saying ... come on, he's the president! Bush played his role for Microsoft by playing no role, thus showing that corporations can tip the scales of justice if they just put enough money on their side of the scales. Jim Hightower's latest book, If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates, has been released in a fully revised and updated paperback edition. E-mail

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