WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A company headed by former Christian Coalition chief Ralph Reed said Tuesday it made ``an error we regret'' when it asked influential Republicans to lobby presidential candidate George Bush on behalf of Microsoft.
Reed's firm, Century Strategies, was a consultant to both the Texas governor and to the Microsoft Corp (NasdaqNM:MSFT - news). It announced that it would no longer ask people to write Bush on behalf of the company.
The New York Times reported on Tuesday that Reed's firm had sought influential people to contact Bush on behalf of Microsoft, after a judge found that Microsoft had violated the nation's antitrust laws by using monopoly power to harm competitors, consumers and other firms.
``Century Strategies should not have encouraged any citizen to contact Gov. Bush, we should have been more sensitive to possible misperceptions, and it is an error that we regret,'' Century Strategies said in a statement.
Spokesmen for both the lobbying firm and Microsoft said that Century Strategies had worked for Microsoft since the fall of 1998. Microsoft noted that Reed's firm was one of a number of lobbying companies it had hired.
``Our competitors have been lobbying for three to four years against Microsoft and in favor of government intervention and we cannot just sit on the sidelines in the face of such an aggressive lobbying campaign,'' said Mark Murray, a spokesman for Microsoft.
The New York Times reported the story on its front page, after it obtained an email that Reed's firm sent to influential Bush supporters. That email asked them to write Bush in support of Microsoft and in opposition to the government antitrust case.
The newspaper said that John Pudner, a senior project manager for Century Strategies, worked in an effort to undermine the government's suit, and that Pudner screened supporters to make certain they were influential in the Bush campaign.
``We will reject letters that are not from someone influential,'' the newspaper quoted Pudner as saying.
District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, who is hearing the antitrust case, has set May 24 to consider what remedies should be applied against Microsoft. Microsoft has announced it will appeal Jackson's decision after the case finishes.
In its statement released Tuesday, Century Strategies said: ''In an abundance of caution and to avoid any further misconception, this company has adopted a policy that we will no longer encourage citizens to make their views known to Gov. Bush on behalf of Microsoft or any of our other clients in the future.''
Last week, the Justice Department's top antitrust enforcer, Joel Klein, condemned the injection of politics into the enforcement of antitrust law. ``If Americans are to have confidence in our legal system, the laws must apply to everyone and politics can have no place in the enforcement of antitrust laws,'' he told the American Bar Association.