Steinberg presses ahead with Microsoft data request

Published: Friday, Jan. 25, 2013 - 3:03 pm | Page 3A
Last Modified: Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013 - 3:02 pm

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg is not backing down from a request for information about Microsoft's dealings with California, a gesture interpreted as a warning to prospective Sacramento Kings buyer and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

After reports emerged that Ballmer was one of the investors seeking to purchase the Kings and relocate them to Seattle, Steinberg sent a letter to the Department of General Services asking for data about California's contracts with Microsoft and the monetary value of the state's past purchases from the technology giant.

Steinberg faced criticism from those who said he was unfairly bullying Ballmer and endangering a lucrative partnership.

But Steinberg defended his move on Thursday as a service to constituents and said he would press on.

"There's something that doesn't feel right about making money working directly with the state of California – in fact, having some of their largest contracts with the state of California – and at the same time using at least some of those gains or profits to try to move a major asset out of the state of California in its capital city," Steinberg said after emerging from a closed-door meeting about the Kings with Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and other lawmakers.

"We're elected to fight for our communities, and that's what we are all doing here," added Steinberg, who represents Sacramento. Steinberg said he would study the information he receives to determine the "appropriate public policy response."

He said he would not attempt to modify existing contracts California holds with Microsoft, noting the Legislature doesn't have authority over issuing contracts.

Michael Liang, a spokesman for the Department of General Services, confirmed that the agency is working on Steinberg's request, a process that is complicated by the fact that California typically purchases Microsoft products through distributors.

Microsoft did not respond to a request for comment.

Johnson and other officials said they were committed to finding a way to keep the Kings in Sacramento, and Johnson said he could reveal some of the potential investors he has been speaking with sometime next week.

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