Microsoft President Visited White House Dozens Of Times Amid Effort To Influence Biden On AI Policy

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  • Microsoft President Brad Smith frequented President Joe Biden’s White House on numerous occasions while the company aimed to shape the administration’s policies on artificial intelligence, according to visitor logs. 
  • Leaders of Microsoft and its partner OpenAI have contributed significantly to boost Biden’s campaign, according to Federal Election Commission data. 
  • “Make no mistake, Microsoft is exploiting the administration’s incompetence for its own gain. With no real strategy or vision from the White House, Microsoft is happily filling the vacuum to shape policy in its own interests,” Jake Denton, a research associate at the Heritage Foundation’s Tech Policy Center, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Microsoft President Brad Smith visited President Joe Biden’s White House dozens of times as the company sought to influence the administration’s artificial intelligence (AI) policy, visitor logs show.

Microsoft, which is a major backer and partner of OpenAI, has spent big on federal lobbying to influence federal AI policy, and company executives have generously contributed to Biden’s reelection campaign. Amid this influence campaign, Smith made dozens of visits to the White House, according to visitor logs. (RELATED: AI Giant Run By Big Dem Donor Unveils Cutting-Edge Method For Online Censorship)

“Make no mistake, Microsoft is exploiting the administration’s incompetence for its own gain,” Jake Denton, a research associate at the Heritage Foundation’s Tech Policy Center, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “With no real strategy or vision from the White House, Microsoft is happily filling the vacuum to shape policy in its own interests.”

Smith has visited Biden’s White House 30 times, according to visitor logs. Smith met with President Biden and other top White House officials, including Office of Science and Technology Policy Director Arati Prabhakar, White House Counsel Steve Riccheti and National Economic Council Director Lael Brainard.

Smith met with Biden twice, the logs show, including at a 20-person meeting in January 2022 and at a large gathering in December 2022. Smith met with Riccheti and another unnamed staffer in April 2022, and he had one private meeting with Brainard in April 2023. In May 2023, Smith met with Prabhakar and an unnamed staffer. That same month, Smith put out a five-point plan calling for new government regulations on AI development.

Smith also had two private meetings with national security advisor Jake Sullivan in February 2023, the logs show, and he participated in three small meetings with deputy national security advisor Anne Neuberger between July 2021 and April 2023.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella visited the White House six times, visitor logs show.

Smith has visited the White House far more than Google’s CEO did during former President Barack Obama’s administration. As Google worked to influence tech policy under Obama, former Google CEO and Chairman Eric Schmidt visited the White House 18 times from 2009 to 2015, according to Tech Transparency Project.

In comparison to Microsoft’s Smith, top representatives for other leading AI companies have far fewer entries in the White House visitor logs during Biden’s presidency.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai has only visited the White House ten times during Biden’s presidency, visitor logs show. Likewise, Anthropic CEO Dario Amodei visited six times. Amazon CEO Andrew Jassy and Inflection CEO Mustafa Suleyman each visited three times. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg does not appear in the visitor logs.

Those companies, Microsoft and OpenAI agreed to “voluntary commitments” to “manage the risks” of AI with the White House in July 2023. Among the risks to be managed in the “voluntary commitments were “harmful bias and discrimination, and protecting privacy.”

By moving quickly, the White House’s commitments create a foundation to help ensure the promise of AI stays ahead of its risks. We welcome the President’s leadership in bringing the tech industry together to hammer out concrete steps that will help make AI safer, more secure, and more beneficial for the public,” Smith wrote in a blog post released the same day.

“Power abhors a vacuum, and Big Tech is always ready to step in and take the reins from our technologically illiterate leaders,” Heritage’s Denton told the DCNF.

Smith also has several entries in the White House logs in September and October 2023 shortly before Biden signed a sweeping executive order requiring “developers of the most powerful AI systems share their safety test results and other critical information with the U.S. government,” according to its fact sheet.

“Today’s executive order is another critical step forward in the governance of AI technology,” Smith wrote in a social media post celebrating the order. “This order builds on the White House Voluntary Commitments for safe, secure, and trustworthy AI … AI promises to lower costs and improve services for the Federal government, and we look forward to working with U.S. officials to fully realize the power and promise of this emerging technology.”

“What we need are policies tailored for the next generation of AI trailblazers, not laws designed by lobbyists to entrench incumbents,” Denton told the DCNF.

Senior Microsoft and OpenAI executives have also made substantial contributions to Biden’s presidential campaign and a committee boosting it, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) data.

Smith contributed $50,000 to Biden Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee supporting the president’s reelection campaign, in August 2023, according to FEC filings. Smith also gave $3,300 to Biden’s reelection campaign the same day, which is the maximum contribution for political campaigns.

Microsoft’s Chief Commercial Officer Judson Althoff gave $100,000 to Biden Victory Fund in 2020, FEC filings show. Microsoft Executive Vice President of the Cloud and AI group Scott Guthrie gave $250,000 to Biden Victory Fund the same year, according to FEC filings.

FEC filings show Microsoft Chief Technology Officer Kevin Scott gave $6,600 to Biden Victory Fund and $2,800 to Biden’s campaign. Scott also hosted a fundraiser for Biden in June 2023, according to Reuters.

Microsoft is pumping more money into OpenAI, increasing their investment from $1 billion in 2019 to $10 billion in 2023.

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman visited the White House six times since Jan. 24, 2023, the day after the companies announced their multi-billion dollar partnership, according to visitor logs.

OpenAI’s Altman contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Biden Victory Fund between 2021 and 2023, according to FEC filings. Altman also gave thousands to Biden’s campaign during that time.

Microsoft and its subsidiaries allocated close to $10.5 million for lobbying the federal government in 2022, Politico reported in July

Over a dozen former Microsoft employees and consultants have ended up in the Biden administration as senior or mid-level officials, according to Politico. This includes Sullivan, who advised Smith on “key policy developments” while serving on a Microsoft advisory council from 2017 to 2020, according to financial disclosures.

Microsoft is also part of the Partnership on AI (PAI), a nonprofit coalition founded by Microsoft’s Chief Scientific Officer Eric Horvitz. Horvitz is also chair of the board for PAI. Microsoft and OpenAI are both partners of the coalition.

Moreover, Horvitz serves on Biden’s “Council of Advisors on Science and Technology,” according to his Microsoft biography. The council “is the sole body of advisors from outside the federal government charged with making science, technology, and innovation policy recommendations to the President and the White House,” according to the White House.

OpenAI, the White House and PAI did not respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

Microsoft declined to comment.

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