For the last three years, Microsoft has been funding the Initiative for a Competitive Online Marketplace (ICOMP), which has been pointing out Google's dominance in search to regulators and journalists, according to The Telegraph. Microsoft is ICOMP's sole sponsor and the software giant is responsible for picking ICOMP's directors. ICOMP helped push the EU to launch an investigation into Google last month. It all began in 2007, when Microsoft and the PR agency Burson-Marsteller formed ICOMP to fight against Google's acquisition of DoubleClick for $3.1 billion.
"ICOMP's mission is to promote widespread support for principles that are essential to a healthy online environment," says the organization's mission statement. "Key goals are to encourage competition, transparency, data privacy and respect for intellectual property protection as well as well as the adoption of best practices to promote creativity, innovation, safety and trust. ICOMP's overall objective is the sustainable growth of the Internet consistent with the rule of law."
ICOMP doesn't go out of its way to make clear that Microsoft is its main funder, but it's not as if it hides the information either. At the bottom of every page of its website, there's the statement "ICOMP is funded by member contributions as well as sponsorship from Microsoft."
This kind of influence by proxy is common practice in various industries, and especially so in the technology market. When Microsoft was under investigation by the EU a few years back, the European Committee for Interoperable Systems (ECIS) played a big part against the software giant. ECIS is funded largely by Microsoft competitors who had a complaint in the case, including Corel, IBM, Nokia, Opera, Oracle, RealNetworks, and Red Hat.
In other words, this is just business as usual. Groups like these are formed by companies like Microsoft and Google because these corporations have the money to do so. Their big pockets are being put to use to influence legislation and litigation, but that's just one of the many aspects of how democracy works, and you just have to make sure not to be swayed too easily.