updated 10:10 am EDT, Wed April 11, 2007
Apple iPod Lobbying
Last week's controversial Michigan iPod proposal may have been in part been influenced by Apple's lobbying money, according to the Detroit Free Press. The paper reports that Democrat state house speaker Andy Dillon and fellow party member Matt Gillard made a trip to California at least partially funded by Apple, which included a trip to the company's Cupertino offices for an iPod and Mac technology demonstration for education. While the details of the talk between Apple and state Democrats remain unknown, the visit reportedly inspired Dillon and Gillard to back a $36 mllion deal that would have iPods and similar devices supplied to every Michigan student to help store class lectures.
Dillon and Gillard separately defended the trip, saying that they were part of a larger expedition and that the stop at Apple's headquarters was part of a larger itinerary that included talks on business taxes and wine distribution. They also acknowledged that the impending $600 million budget deficit for the state was the most important, but were adamant that an influx of technology on some level was crucial to the long-term welfare of the region.
"As we move to the technology age and the knowledge-based economy, it would be irresponsible to separate technology from our K-12 system," Dillon told journalists.
A spokesman for Dillon also pointed to a certain level of hypocrisy in rival politicians' accusations of unfair lobbying, pointing out that many politicians (including Republicans) made similar visits to other companies in the past. The spokesman for Republican house leader Craig DeRoche was quick to argue, however, that few of these expeditions resulted in such major spending initiatives as for the iPod deal.
Apple representative Susan Lundgren said the company's lobbyist in the state capital was unable to comment when contacted by the Detroit Free Press on Tuesday.