Oracle says that it hired Investigative Group International to spy on Microsoft-funded support groups like the National Taxpayers Union, the Independent Institute (not so independent, after all), and the Association for Competitive Technology. Since it was clear enough that these outfits were toeing a particularly pro-Microsoft line, the real news is Oracle's involvement. It's not particularly surprising given the Ellison-Gates antithesis - we recall an IDG meeting in Paris when Gates, who spoke just before Ellison, chose to exit through the kitchens rather than have an encounter with Larry - but there were plenty of other potential spy masters as well.
The WSJ, which is reporting the Oracle connection today, has only been following the IGI's garbage trail quite recently, reporting that IGI-related people had sought to buy the contents of the pro-Microsoft organisations wastepaper baskets from the cleaners.
Oracle also funded the Washington PR firm Chlopak Leonard Schechter to distribute anti-Microsoft information, the WSJ reports, including details of Ralph Reed's Microsoft lobbying with George W Bush, and a strategy document from Microsoft adviser, the DCI Group.
It is curious that the Oracle connection did not break months ago since the WSJ (and New York Times) have carried the results of what we now know to be the IGI investigations - such as the amount of Microsoft funding - and apparently were happy to accept the stories from PR flacks without independent confirmation.
The IGI chairman Terry Lenzer, like Steve Ballmer, was a member of the Board of Overseers of Harvard College. He also helped in the investigation of politicians who had made accusations against President Bill Clinton during the Kenneth Starr investigation.
An Oracle spokeswoman said that "these Microsoft front groups could have influenced the outcome of one of the most important antitrust cases in US history", but from what we have seen of the groups, we rather doubt that they have any significant capability to sway anybody. ®