Documents and laptops disappeared in a number of incidents at Citizens for a Sound Economy and the Independent Institute, both groups that receive funding from Microsoft, the Journal reported. The Journal claimed documents obtained in this manner were leaked to the press, becoming the source for stories critical of Microsoft's lobbying attempts. Microsoft is also a member of ACT, which describes its mission as supporting technological innovation "without undue government interference".
Microsoft spokesman Rick Miller said the information that was leaked to the press didn't affect the company's antitrust trial but was "more an attempt to influence the political arena".
"This latest allegation is particularly troubling and really shows the lengths (Microsoft competitors) are prepared to go to attack Microsoft," Miller said.
"We're trying not to be too Oliver Stone or John Grisham about this," said Allison Rosen, vice president of public affairs for ACT, referring to the creators of popular mystery movies and novels. "(But) our entrance on the Washington scene apparently rattled some cages."
Rosen said a company that identified itself as Upstream Technologies rented space on the same floor as ACT. A person from Upstream Technologies on two occasions offered cleaning personnel cash amounts of up to $500 for garbage belonging to ACT, Rosen claimed.
Microsoft's attempts at lobbying Washington via a wide network of advocacy groups have occasionally led to embarrassment. For instance, it was revealed last year that Microsoft had bankrolled a series of supposedly independent advertisements supporting its case.
Other revelations that reached the media included the precise amount of funding Microsoft had provided to some these lobbying groups. Miller said Microsoft has never attempted to hide the fact that it financed these and other groups -- it merely kept the exact amounts confidential.
Microsoft is likely to step up its lobbying efforts even further in the future, Miller said. But he added that this shouldn't be construed as an attempt to influence the outcome of its legal dispute with the US Department of Justice. "We want to win this case in the courts, not in the political arena," said Miller.