Cronyism Strikes Again: Ex-Microsoftee Married To Democrat Congresswoman Set To Take Over Obamacare Exchange
Having done a bang up job on the Healthcare.gov rollout (after retaining virtually every private sector company with relevant skills to fix the 500 million-lines-of-code monster), Jeff Zients, as we reported previously, is set to become director of the National Economic Council (perhaps he will next roll out a database where America's unemployed sign up). But what is more notable is that his replacement in leading the overhaul of the Obamacare exchanges is a former executive from Microsoft. Kurt DelBene, whose wife just happens to be Democratic Congresswoman Suzan DelBene. What could possibly go wrong as cronyism brings Blue Cross together with the Blue Screen of Death?
Kurt DelBene, previously president of the company’s Office division, is “retiring” from Microsoft. He’s only 52, so this is more about an up-or-out decision.
Office, which is still the dominant work software suite for most businesses of any scale, is a big revenue generator for Microsoft. It’s also been undergoing a major transition to become “Office 365,” the final stroke in the long-term move from the old boxed software days to software-as-a-service, sold in subscriptions to consumers and business customers alike.
DelBene managed the release of the cloud-based Office 365, but his former domain is now being stuffed into the company’s new “applications and services group.” That group will be led by Qi Lu, previously the head of Microsoft’s not-terribly-successful search and online services business.
and his wife, Democratic Congresswoman Susan DelBene,
Congresswoman Suzan DelBene represents what has been described as one of the most evenly divided districts in the country. The redrawn First Congressional District of Washington state also contains several geographical and economic elements—from agricultural and high-tech businesses to a lengthy stretch of Canadian border—that have a major stake in the outcome of the immigration reform effort under way in Congress.
DelBene, a Democrat who spent some $2.8 million of her own money on last year’s campaign, returns to Washington, DC, this week with immigration high on the agenda in the House of Representatives. But so far there’s little sign that the Republican-controlled chamber plans a comprehensive approach to match the bill passed by the Senate last month.
“I think everyone agrees that on many different levels our current immigration policy is broken, and so this is our opportunity to put a new foundation in place and to reset,” DelBene says. “If we’re doing a good job and being good stewards of policy, we’ll see what’s working and continue to update it and fix it as we go along, as opposed to leave it sitting there as we have, knowing it’s broken, letting it in many cases get worse and not touching it.”
Her position on the House Judiciary Committee gives her a front-row seat for the immigration debate, as well as several other reform efforts important to technology businesses, including electronic privacy and sales tax collections by online retailers (hello, Amazon).
DelBene—a former startup entrepreneur and executive at Microsoft, where her husband Kurt DelBene still works, leading the Office Division—sat down with Xconomy in her Bothell district headquarters to discuss these issues and her approach to legislating in a body that bears little resemblance to the tech world from which she comes.
Her latest public financial disclosures can be found here.
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