Microsoft supporters raised from the dead

Microsoft Corp.’s antitrust battle against the U.S. government has drawn out of the woodwork a number of supporters for a quick resolution – unfortunately, not all of them are alive.

Utah’s state attorney general’s office, a plaintiff in the antitrust bout along with 17 other states and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), confirmed Thursday that the law enforcement agency has been the center of a letter writing-campaign from lobbyists asking the government to go easy on Microsoft.

According to state officials more than 400 letters were sent to Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff supporting a settlement and dead Utah citizens signed two of those letters. The Los Angeles Times first reported the news Thursday.

“It just became apparent that a lot of the letters we received were the same,” said Paul Murphy, a spokesman for Utah’s attorney general’s office. “It was clear that each individual person didn’t sit down and write these letters.”

After some inquiry, the law enforcement agency discovered that not only were the letters not handwritten, many of them included falsified information such as names of dead residents, and one from a resident of “Tuscon, Utah,” a city that doesn’t exist. Other attorneys general involved in the case have also received suspect letters, Murphy said.

Microsoft was slightly unfazed by the news Thursday. “I think that it’s obvious that our competitors have waged a political campaign against Microsoft for a long time now,” said Jim Desler, a Microsoft legal spokesman. “It’s hardly a surprise that organizations and companies would mobilize and counter those efforts.”

Microsoft deferred further comment on the lobby efforts to Citizens Against Government Waste, which is said to be behind the letter-writing campaign, and the Americans for Technology Leadership, a lobbying group made up of technology firms pushing for “innovation not litigation,” Desler said. Microsoft is a member of the ATL.

Advocacy groups funded by Microsoft competitors have also been heavy-handed in lobbying the state attorneys general. ProComp, a group funded by Oracle Corp., Sun Microsystems Inc. and other software companies, presented its case against Microsoft to top law enforcers during the nation’s attorneys general’s annual gathering in June.

Murphy said the Utah attorney general’s office has not been in contact with the lobbying groups behind the letter-writing campaign or with Microsoft. He also said the state was not looking to take any action against them.

“It’s more humorous than anything else,” he said.