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Microsoft President Brad Smith explains how political contributions actually work

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Microsoft President Brad Smith attends a panel discussion with U.S. President Donald Trump and industry executives on the reopening of the country in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, DC on May 29, 2020.

Almond Ngan | AFP | Getty Images

A senior Microsoft executive defended the company's approach to supporting political campaigns at a meeting with employees on Thursday. This emerges from a transcript of the meeting verified by CNBC.

Brad Smith, president and legal chief of Microsoft, said Microsoft is currently exploring options for the Microsoft Political Action Committee (MSPAC), which has been criticized by employees for helping to fund the campaigns by members of Congress to target Donald Trump's unsubstantiated allegations of fraud in the presidential election 2020 supported.

Microsoft employees in the US can donate a portion of their income to the MSPAC, but they have no direct control over which candidates it donates to. On January 11, the company announced it had on hold donations following the January 6 riot attempt when rioters poured into the U.S. Capitol during the electoral college census that formalized Joe Biden's victory. The MSPAC had donated to several Republican members of Congress who tried to delay the electoral college's formal vote, despite no evidence of widespread electoral fraud.

Several other companies, including Amazon, Facebook and Google, also temporarily stopped making political donations after the events.

On January 13, a Microsoft employee, Carmen Crincoli, urged the company to stop supporting members of Congress who voted against the electoral college results and to stop giving direct funds to elected officials and candidates. He said if the company can't do these things it should shut down MSPAC and ask employees to look at the policy individually.

Smith, who articulates Microsoft's position on political issues, responded to the complaints.

"The questions being considered are exactly what you would expect. Should the PAC suspend donations to members who voted against the electoral college? If so, how long?" Smith said to the staff on Thursday.

But he also openly explained why the MSPAC is important for Microsoft's interests:

"I can tell you it matters. Not because the checks are big, but because the way the political process works. Politicians in the United States have events, they have weekend retreats, you have to Write a check and then, "If you work on the Government Affairs team in the US, you spend your weekends on these events, your evenings on these dinners, and that's because the PAC writes a check."

"But as a result of these ongoing efforts, a relationship develops and grows, and I can tell you that as someone who sometimes lifts the phone, I sometimes call members and ask them for help with green cards or visa issues Help bring an employee or family member who is outside the US during Covid back into the country due to immigration restrictions.

"Or the problems related to national security, privacy or procurement reform. Or the tax problems our finance team manages. And I can tell you there are times when I call people I don't know personally and someone will say it. " "You know, your people always showed up for me at my events. And we have a good relationship. Let me see what I can do to help you."

Microsoft declined to comment on Smith's comments previously posted by Maciej Cegłowski, who runs the social bookmarking website Pinboard.

In 2020, hundreds of Facebook employees took part in a protest over the company's decision to keep contributions from former President Donald Trump. In 2018, Google employees protested a contract the company had to sign to provide cloud services for the Pentagon, and prompted the company not to renew the contract.

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Katherine Clark