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Reed Apologizes for Bush Work

By EUN-KYUNG KIM, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - The consulting firm founded by Ralph Reed apologized today for encouraging ``a small number of individuals'' to express their views about the Microsoft case to George W. Bush (news - web sites), the presumptive GOP presidential nominee. The firm said it would halt the contacts.

Century Strategies, which was founded by Reed, was never ``retained for the purpose of influencing Governor Bush,'' according to a statement released by the political consulting group. Although Reed is a senior consultant to Bush's campaign, he has never asked Bush to take a position on the government's anti-trust case against Microsoft, the statement said.

However, ``in the course of a broader program to encourage citizens to express their views to presidential candidates of both parties, including Al Gore (news - web sites) and Bill Bradley (news - web sites), a small number of individuals were encouraged to make their views known to Governor Bush,'' the company said.

Gore is the presumptive Democratic nominee. Bradley quit the race.

Century Strategies asked its grassroots organizers, including people on contract with the firm, to determine if anybody in their political networks would be willing to contact presidential candidates in writing. To the best of the firm's knowledge few, if any, people sent letters to Bush as a result of the 10-day operation, said an official familiar with the operation. The official spoke on condition that he not be identified.

``Century Strategies should not have encouraged any citizen to contact Governor Bush,'' the firm said in the statement. ``We should have been more sensitive to possible misperception and it is an error that we regret,'' the statement said.

``In an abundance of caution, and to avoid any further misconception, this company will no longer encourage citizens to make their views known to Governor Bush's campaign on behalf of Microsoft or any of our other clients in the future,'' the statement added.

The New York Times reported today that Microsoft hired Reed, former Christian Coalition leader, to get Bush to support the Microsoft's position in the Justice Department's antitrust case if he wins the November presidential election.

Ari Fleisher, a Bush spokesman said that Reed has ``never talked to the governor about Microsoft. There's been no personal lobbying.''

The Century Strategies statement said the company was hired by Microsoft in the fall of 1998 ``to encourage consumers and grass roots citizens to make their views known to public opinion leaders, the media, and political leaders of both parties.''

Dan Leach, a Microsoft spokesman, said Century was one of several companies hired to ``defend ourselves from our competitors' lobbying attacks.''

``We are not hoping or expecting that any different administration will pull back or withdraw this (antitrust) case,'' Leach added. ``We believe and we fully expect that we will win this case on appeal.''

Microsoft spokesman Mark Murray told the Times that the company hired Century Strategies to counter ``a comprehensive lobbying campaign by our competitors'' to promote the government's suit.

He said Microsoft has been trying to get its point across to all the presidential candidates, including Vice President Gore.

A spokeswoman for Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, Ginny Terzano, formerly worked as a spokeswoman at the Clinton White House and at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Last week, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., ruled that Microsoft violated the Sherman Antitrust Act by bundling its Internet Explorer Web browser with its Windows operating system software. Microsoft said it would appeal.

 

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