You know Citizens Against Government Waste is a corporate front group, right?

by Michael(tm) Smith

I just came across chromatic's posting The Short-Term Allure of the Proprietary Trap -- which points out a logical flaw in the rhetoric within a recent bit of anti-open-source, pro-Microsoft propaganda disguised as a press release from a supposedly "nonpartisan" organization (and, as usual, an organization that, at least based just on its name, one would assume has no vested interest in bashing open-source software).

In this case, the source is an entity that calls itself "Citizens Against Government Waste", which nobody else I talked to seems to know much at all about. So I figured it might be worthwile for me to share what I know about where it came from it, what it promotes, and what its history and realationship with Microsoft is.

Where CAGW came from

For those unfamiliar with "Citizens Against Government Waste" (CAGW): It advertises itself as a "grassroots" organization and as an organization whose mission is "eliminating waste" (nice phrase, that) in the federal goverment. But CAGW actually is neither. Not by a long shot.

You can find out more info by following some of the links on the Center for Media & Democracy's page about CAGW. The following are just some brief details.

First of all, despite what you might assume from its name, CAGW was not formed by, say, some average taxpayer or group of average taxpayers fed up with wasteful government spending and it is has never been driven by such a person or group of people.

Instead, CAGW was started by Peter Grace, chairman of the board of W.R. Grace and Company, a conglomerate that was a US$5+ billion-a-year operation at the time. CAGW is basically the outgrowth of a government-funded group, the President's Private Sector Survey on Cost Control (a.k.a, The Grace Commission) that Ronald Reagan set up during his first term, and chose Peter Grace to head.

The Grace Commission, like a few of the other stellar brain-trusts that the Reagan administration prudently spent good government money on at the time (for example, the Meese Commission -- let's take a moment to remember all the important work they did, and the big return on investment that US taxpayers got out of the money spent on that work) ended up producing pretty much what was only to be expected: A set of "recommendations" that (shock) aligned exactly with the "revolutionary" sort of "get the government off our backs -- especially us poor little corporations who are just trying to make a buck" policies promoted by the Reagan administration in the early 1980s and promoted in subsequent administrations by "government servants" of the "yes, I am the recipient of a variety of 'corporate generosity' and/or the board member of several large corporations but of course that does not bias my decisions in any way" fold.

In the case of the Grace Commission, the recommendations included making changes in federal legislation -- fairly radical and sweeping changes, in fact -- to promote corporate deregulation.

What CAGW promotes

CAGW continues to work in the "degulation good, regulation bad" spirit of the recommendations the Grace Commission made. And CAGW continues to be driven by the interests of large corporations -- including the Phillip Morris corporation, Exxon, and (surprise) Microsoft -- from whom it has solicited and received a large part of its funding.

In fact, a more accurate name for "Citizens Against Government Waste" might be "Corporations Against Government". Period. Because much of CAGW's efforts actually center not around promoting federal waste-cutting per se, but instead, much more narrowly, in promoting federal departmental spending cuts and specific legislative changes to weaken the US government's powers to monitor corporate abuses -- in particular, by getting rid of stuff like all those tiresome and costly (to corporations, that is) environmental, health, and safety regulations that current US federal law requires their US operations to comply with. And opposing efforts by the US government to punish corporate violations of federal law.

Which brings us to Microsoft...

CAGW and Microsoft

CAGW has very consistently and very publicly come out on the side of Microsoft in the legal efforts in the US (and in the EU, and wherever else) related to Microsoft's violation of anti-monopoly laws.

And despite the fact that it makes no effort at all to inform the public (or even the individual people hoodwinked -- mostly on the basis of its name, I would guess -- into financially supporting it) that it receives funding from Microsoft, the CAGW has for years now been churning out "Microsoft good, open-source bad" propaganda (though not on the same scale as their "deregulation good, regulation bad" stuff").

Specifically in regards to chromatic's posting about the latest CAGW press release: CAGW's opposition to the state of Massachusetts's efforts to move to open-source software (and thus away from Microsoft products) is old news. CAGW has been issuing, um, helpful warnings about it for more than two years, ever since Massachusetts officials first began publicly discussing the possibility.

Try entering "Microsoft" into the search box on the CAGW site and see what you get (for added fun, try entering tobacco and read a few of the thoroughly unbiased CAGW press releases which cover or mention that).

Or just take a quick look at the "Technology Reform" section of the CAGW Links page, where you'll find a link to the Microsoft corporate site, along with the following statement:

Visit the Microsoft website to examine the future of cyber technology!

More details about "Citizens Against Government Waste"?


2005-09-23 11:47:28
Corporations Against Government
Thank you for this, Michael.
2005-09-23 22:02:41
With regard to to those dead letter writers in Utah, whatís the big deal? Itís not CAGW killed them in order to get them to write the darn things. CAGW claims those folks were dead long before they wrote the letters;)