Microsoft has been under pressure from employees upset about some government contracts (such as military application of its augmented reality technology) and political donations they feel contradict the company’s stated values on issues such as immigration and LGBTQ rights.
Now it looks as if Microsoft is taking the criticism to heart. A purported internal announcement states that the company is temporarily suspending donations from its employee-funded Microsoft Political Action Committee (MSPAC), while it restructures the program.
The document was published by entrepreneur and tech worker activist Maciej Ceglowski, who tells Fast Company that he transcribed it from a screenshot of the document sent by a Microsoft employee. (We have seen the screenshot and are attempting to contact the employee directly. UPDATE: We’ve spoken with the source, who confirms the document’s authenticity.)
“We have heard from many employees that greater transparency is needed when it comes to MSPAC policies, giving criteria, and how decisions are made in terms of the candidates we support,” reads the document, addressed “to MSPAC Members” and bearing the signature of Microsoft’s corporate VP for U.S. government affairs, Fred Humphries Jr.
A Microsoft spokesperson told us that the company does not comment on “internal employee emails,” although it’s not clear if the message was delivered by email.
The document goes on to state that Microsoft is suspending political donations until “the fall” while it takes time to “align operations,” including creating new employee advisory councils that will be announced later this summer.
“I think the move is significant because it shows that the employee pressure is really working,” Ceglowski tells Fast Company.
He cited as points of controversy donations to politicians whose views differ from Microsoft’s stated positions. For instance, MSPAC has given to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who opposed the Obama-era DACA protections to undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as small children. Meanwhile, Microsoft has joined a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s termination of DACA.
“The tension between this company’s stated values and their political giving is becoming untenable,” says Ceglowski.
This is an ongoing story that we may update as new information emerges.