Company Profile: Oracle

By: Bradley McNeil, Ph.D. Student (McMaster University)

Oracle has developed a reputation for aggressive lobbying tactics designed to block their competitor’s success. Oracle is often critiqued for spending more money on lobbying and legal campaigns against its competitors than on improving its own products. This blog post highlights Oracle’s lobbying activities in the U.S. during the selection of a cloud service provider for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract announced in 2018. The JEDI narrative provides insight into how Oracle uses lobbying to remain competitive in the cloud computing industry. Shifting focus to Oracles acquisition of Cerner, a leading electronic health records company, this blog post reveals how Oracle seeks out major cloud computing contracts from nations.

Although Oracle lobbies aggressively in the U.S., there is less reporting about Oracle’s lobbying activities in Canada. This blog post uses Oracle’s lobbying activities in the U.S. to address Oracles potential lobbing interests in Canada.

Oracle Lobbying in the News

In 2018, Oracle was embroiled in a major contract dispute with Amazon, Microsoft, and Google regarding the ten-year Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud computing contract worth approximately $10 billion dollars. The JEDI contract, to be awarded to a single vendor, would be the largest contract awarded in the history of cloud computing. Beyond its immediate monetary value, securing the JEDI contract would signal to consumers that the victor’s cloud services received the US Government’s  “stamp of approval in a market where ensuring a client’s data security is imperative.

The JEDI contract controversy began soon after the Pentagon announced that the contract would go to a single cloud service provider. JEDI was described as a contract “gift wrapped for Amazon”  commonly considered the industry leader in cloud computing and was already familiar working with US Government organizations such as the CIA since 2013. Amazon competitors Microsoft, Oracle and IBM, “launched a highly public campaign to break the award up into multiple pieces.”  Though a smaller company than Microsoft, Oracle was considered the ringleader of the aggressive lobbying campaign. Eleven days after the Department of Defence (DoD) began its solicitation for cloud providers for the JEDI contract, Oracle formally filed a pre-award complaint with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) which stated: “The single-award approach is contrary to industry’s multi-cloud strategy, which promotes constant competition, fosters innovation and lowers prices.”  The GAO denied Oracle’s allegations. Oracle’s initial legal push was unsuccessful, it was struck down and the Department of Defence maintained that a “single award is advantageous because, among other things, it improves security, improves data accessibility and simplifies the Department’s ability to adopt and use cloud services.”

Oracle’s aggressive lobbying tactics were more successful.  Lead Oracle lobbyist Kenneth Glueck created a flow chart titled “A Conspiracy To Create A Ten Year DoD Cloud Monopoly” which made its way to the desk of President Trump. The flow chart (pictured below)  points to various “Pentagon Officials, current Amazon employees and executives, as well as consultants working on behalf of Amazon, connecting them together in a criss-cross of business and professional ties.”

Glueck claimed he did not know how the document made its way to the desk of the President and denied the motion that anyone at Oracle gave his chart to the White House. Not long after President Trump received the document, he openly told reporters: “I’m getting tremendous complaints about the contract… with Amazon, They’re saying that it wasn’t competitively bid… some of the greatest companies in the world are complaining about it, having to do with Amazon and the Department of Defense and I will be asking them to look at it very closely to see what is going on.”

Pushing the conspiracy narrative further, Oracle managed to receive support from members of Congress to push the anti-Amazon offensive to the White House and Pentagon. Oracle also filed a case in the Court of Federal claims “alleging that Defense Department officials involved in the bid process had ties to Amazon.”

In August 2019, weeks before the winner of the JEDI contract was scheduled to be announced, President Trump ordered the contract to be placed on hold so that Defence Secretary Mark Esper could investigate the claims of the Government’s Amazon favouritism. By October, Microsoft was awarded the JEDI contract, causing Amazon to take legal action that would inevitably put the JEDI contract on hold indefinitely.

Ultimately, the JEDI contract was scrapped on July 6, 2021. Instead of the single vendor JEDI contract, the DoD announced the new Joint Warfighter Cloud Capability (JWCC) program which would contract services form multiple vendors. On December 7, 2022, the $9 billion JWCC contract was awarded to four cloud providers: Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Oracle.  

The JEDI narrative provides insight into the power of Oracle’s lobbyist. Oracle’s aggressive lobbying and legal offensive against Amazon effectively set a series of events in motion which led to the cancellation of the single vendor ten-year $10 million JEDI contract –  which Oracle did not even qualify for based on falling short of the DoD’s security requirements – to the JWCC multi vendor contract which Oracle is now a part of.

The JEDI controversy illustrates Oracle’s lobbying and legal prowess. The company is a power-house in Washington that has earned a reputation for its fierce lobbying and legal campaigns. Oracle’s competitors and media critiques often argue that “the software giant invests more money on lobbying and lawsuits than on improving its products.” Columbia University law professor, Tim Wu, argues that Oracle is “the poster child for much of what’s wring with tech advocacy in the U.S…. using the government as a weapon to delay, annoy and extract value from other companies.” One famous satirical sketch (pictured below) by Leander Kehney suggests that Oracle’s legal division is much larger than its engineering teams.

(Source: Cult of Mac)

Kehney’s sketch may speak some truth. In 2022, Oracle had 82 lobbyists in the United States and its total lobbying expenditures for the year was $9,590,000, ranking 18th of the 8,720 registered lobbyist tracked by OpenSecrets. These numbers allowed Oracle to compete against the lobbying campaigns of much larger tech companies like Amazon who, for perspective, had 118 lobbyist and spent $16,090,000 in 2022, and Microsoft who had 96 lobbyist and spent $1,298,950 in 2022. Additionally, Oracle’s proximity to lawmakers makes the company an even more effective lobbyist. Oracle owns a $2.8 million townhouse on Capitol Hill only blocks away from Congress (pictured in map below).

No other tech company is stationed as close to Congress.  Politico notes that in 2021 the townhouse hosted several fundraisers for “lawmakers pushing legislation that would rein in the cloud and database company’s Big Tech competitors.” Glueck notes that the townhouse’s proximity to Congress is effective because it “leverages our footprint, it gives us visibility.” Oracle uses the space for its own events, and rents it out to lawmakers at a cheaper rate than hotels and restaurants in the are charge. Politico notes that Glueck acknowledges that “Oracle is choosy about which members it hosts for fundraisers in the townhouse, selecting mostly members who sit on committees that Oracle cares about or who hail from districts where Oracle has a presence.”

More recently, in 2022, Oracle lobbied about the Prepare for and Respond to Existing Viruses, Emerging New Threats and Pandemics Act, also known as the PREVENT Pandemics Act. Introduced in March 2022 by Senators Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Richard Burr (R-N.-C.), PREVENT would give the Department of Health and Human Services the authority to contract with both public and private entities to establish a network to track genomic data on pathogens. PREVENT seeks “strategies to improve the electronic exchange of health information between State and local health departments and health care providers and facilities to improve public health surveillance.”

Oracle’s lobbying about PREVENT comes less than a year after the company acquired Cerner, a leading electronic health records company, for $28 billion. When Oracle bought Cerner, Oracle CTO Larry Ellison claimed that the Oracle Cerner partnership would transform healthcare for patients by “providing medical professionals with better information- enabling them to make better treatment decisions resulting in better patient outcomes.” However, a year later, reports revealed that Ellison’s vision of healthcare is more ambitious than simply improving patient care. For Ellison, the Oracle Cerner is about building national public health systems for countries.  Ellison noted that Oracle Cerner was attempting to establish contracts with countries. “These global public health systems need to be built” noted Ellison, “We are in discussions with, not companies, but countries about building and deploying global early warning systems, so we can detect the next pathogen that threatens to turn into a pandemic.” In December of 2022, Oracle CEO Safra Catz noted that Oracle Cerner would be signing several enormous contracts with countries to build their national healthcare systems: “We will be signing contracts with a number of countries to build these national systems. And these contracts are enormous, I mean, absolutely enormous, and there will be several of them. So, the scale of this healthcare opportunity is unprecedented, but so are the responsibilities that go along with it.”Ellison adds that Oracle seeks to “provide public health professionals with an early warning system that locates and identifies new pathogens in time to prevent the next pandemic.” The Oracle Cerner partnership promises to fulfill opportunities created by the PREVENT Pandemics Act.

Who Lobbies for Oracle in Canada?

Since Oracle registered with the Canadian Registry of Lobbyist in 1996, the companies lobbying activities in Canada have been carried out exclusively through consultants that Oracle has hired. Currently, Oracle has eight active consultants lobbying in Canada.

Jermey Wittet – Wittet’s lobbyist registration with Oracle was renewed during the time this blog post was written. Wittet is a Senior Director of Government and Public Affairs at Edelman Global Advisory an independent government relations firm. From 2013 to 2015 Witter held a public office as a Policy Advisor at the House of Commons for the Chief Government Whip – Hon. John Duncan, P.C. M.P (Vancouver Island-North) and as a Policy Advisor/Executive Assistant to the Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Veterans Affairs.

Pierre CyrCyr is a Managing Director of Public and Government Affairs at Edelman Global Advisory.  Cyr has held several public office positions. Most recently, (from October 2011 to July 2012) Cyr was Director of Political Operations at the House of Commons for the Office of the Liberal Leader. From 2005 to 2006, Cyr was also a Special Assistant at the Prime Minister’s Office in the Office of the Parliamentary Secretary. Cyr’s first public office held was as a Special Assistant at Canadian Heritage for the Minister’s Office where Cyr was a Scheduling Assistant from 2002 to 2004.  

David AngusFrom May 1985 to May 1987, Angus served as a Caucus Liaison at the House of Commons for the Prime Minister’s Office (Brian Mulroney).  David Angus is the President of the Capital Hill Group where he advertises his lobbying expertise in Government procurement.

Nevin French –French is Vice President of Technology at Edelman. Prior to his position at Edelman he was Vice President of Public Policy at Technation, a company which aims to “facilitate and enable the tech industry and government to work together to grow and evolve with new technology available”  

 French has held six public office positions. Most recently, between August and December of 2017, French was a Senior Analyst in the Energy Policy department of Natural Resources Canada. French also served as a senior analyst of International Policy at Fisheries and Oceans Canada from March to September 2017. From October 2016 to March 2017, French was a Senior Officer at Global Affairs Canada in the Eastern European department. For two years between September 2014 to September 2016, French was Deputy Director of Europe Bilateral and Advocacy at Global Affairs Canada. Before that French served twice as a Policy Analyst. First between August 2010 and June 2011 for the Energy Policy section of Natural Resources Canada, and then from June 2011 to July 2012 for International Border Policy at Public Safety Canada.

Sharon Chamberlain – Chamberlain, also from Edelman, has held eight public offices. Most recently, from July 2004 to September 2009, Chamberlain was Director General of Corporate and Shared Services at National Defence Canada. Chamberlain served a brief stint as Director General of Strategic Planning, Business Integration and Shared Services at Public Works and Government Services Canada between March and July in 2004. From May 2003 to February 2004, Chamberlain was also Senior Director of an Agriculture Portfolio Relocation Project for IM/IT Infrastructure at Agriculture Canada. From November 2002 to May 2003, Chamberlain was Senior Director of Acquisitions, Client Services Branch at Public Works and Government Services Canada. In 2002, between August and November, Chamberlain served as Senior Director of the Acquisitions Branch of the Special Projects Initiatives Directorate at Public Works and Government Services Canada. From June 1997 to August 2002, Chamberlain was Senior Director of Informatics Procurement Directorate, Acquisitions Branch at Public Works and Government Services Canada. From January 1988 to May 1997, Chamberlain was Director and Group Manager for the Acquisitions Branch of Business and Consulting Services Directorate at Public Works and Government Services Canada. Chamberlain’s public office career began October 1974 when she began working as a Junior Officer for various procurement positions at Public Works and Government Services Canada until January 1988.  

Graham Looney – A Director at Edelman Global Advisory. Looney held a public office as a Legislative Assistant at the House of Commons from January 2018 to May 2018.   

Kevin Tetreault  – Tetreault is Co-Founder of the Canadian GovTech Community and Vice President of Public and Government Affairs at Edelman Global Advisory. Tetreault has held three public office positions. Most recently, from January to May 2015, Tetreault was a Parliamentary Assistant in the House of Commons for the Office of the MP for Portage-Lisgar. From January 2013 to January 2014, Tetreault was Parliamentary Assistant at the house of Commons for the Office of the MP for Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound. Tetreault was also a Parliamentary Assistant at the house of Commons for the Office of the MP for Brandon-Souris from January 2012 to September 2013.  

Darcy Walsh –  Darcy Walsh is the President of Edelman Global Advisory Canada. Walsh once held a public office from 2006 to 2007 when served as Director of Parliamentary Affairs at Public Works and Government Services Canada for the Office of Minister Michael Fortier.  

What Does Oracle Lobby About in Canada?

Oracle has hired consultants for all lobbying communications with the Canadian Government since the company first registered with the Registry of Lobbyist in 1996. Despite Oracle’s aggressive U.S. lobbying tactics, there have been less news about Oracle lobbying campaigns in Canada. It is not uncommon for global tech companies to pursue similar interests globally, and Oracle’s Registry of Lobbying profile suggests that Oracle is interested in pursuing cloud contracts with the Canadian National Defence Department and the Health Canada.

In February of 2022, Federal authorities reported that preliminary work in modernizing their data collection and analytic systems was underway. In a Global News article Dave Perry  of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute notes that it is high time for the modernization of the military’s systems and processors, some of which date back to the 1950s. Written April 5 of 2022, the Global News article states that Oracle had not yet held lobbying meetings with national security officials. However, by September 26, about five months after the Global News article which indicated Canada was in the preliminary stages of updating its national defence data storage program, Oracle hired consultants whose lobbying information reports indicate they speak with national defence departments and are “engaging the Government of Canada regarding Information Technology Contracts.” Oracle’s Consultants have listed Government Institutions such as: Canadian Coast Guard (CCG), Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), National Defence (DND).

It appears that Oracle is also interested in bringing Oracle Cerner to Canada. Although there is not much news of Oracle Cerner contract talks with the Canadian Government, five (Wittet, French, Cyr, Looney, Tetreault, Walsh) of Oracle’s eight active lobbyists list Health Canada, and one (Chamberlain) lists Public Health Agency of Canada, as government institutions currently being lobbied. Oracle Cerner recently signed a ten-year contract with Niagara Health to “build a modern hospital information system that will serve all five Niagara Health sites and Hotel Dieu Shaver Health and Rehabilitation Center. On July 28, 2022, Oracle Cerner posted a podcast with Lyn Baluyot, Vice President and Chief Transformation Officer Lyn Baluyot, Canada. Baluyot noted that one of the problems for hospitals in Ontario when it comes to embracing new healthcare tech systems like Oracle Cerner’s is that the speed at which the technology moves outpaces the funding that hospitals must adopt these technologies. Baluyot notes that in Ontario, hospitals tend to “bare the brunt of the cost of these systems and doing the interoperability work” Baluyot notes that Ontario hospitals can really only benefit from systems offered by Oracle Cerner once smaller agencies can participate, but it is not clear to Baluyot where the finding for smaller hospitals will come from. Baluyot’s comments uncover a possible line of argument for Oracle Cerner as the company attempts to expand in the Canadian Healthcare system. Oracle’s consultants who list Health Canada or Public Health Agency of Canada as government institutions being lobbied claim they “seek to identify and secure federal procurement opportunities as it relate to innovating public service delivery.”  

Oracle lists “Government Procurement” as its only active subject matter currently being lobbied about.  The Consultants describe Government Procurement as “seeking to identify and secure federal procurement opportunities as it relates to innovating public service delivery”  and “Oracle is engaging the Government of Canada regarding Information Technology Contracts.”

What Government Institutions Does Oracle Lobby in Canada?

Oracle Corp has hired consultants to lobby a long list of government institutions in Canada. Below is a list of government institutions that Oracle has lobbied in 2022. This list was created using information from the Lobbying Registry:

  • Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC)
  • Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA)
  • Bank of Canada
  • Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA)
  • Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions
  • Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)
  • Canadian Coast Guard (CCG)
  • Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC)
  • Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS)
  • Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC)
  • Correctional Service of Canada (CSC)
  • Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC)
  • Elections Canada
  • Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC)
  • Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev)
  • Finance Canada (FIN)
  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada
  • Global Affairs Canada (GAC)
  • Health Canada (HC)
  • House of Commons
  • Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)
  • Indigenous Services Canada (ISC)
  • Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED)
  • Justice Canada (JC)
  • National Defence (DND)
  • Parks Canada (PC)  
  • Prime Minister’s Office (PMO)
  • Privy Council Office (PCO)
  • Public Safety Canada (PS)
  • Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC)
  • Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP)
  • Senate of Canada
  • Service Canada (ServCan)
  • Shared Services Canada (SSC)
  • Statistics Canada (StatCan)
  • Transportation Safety Board of Canada(TSB)
  • Treasury Board Of Canada Secretariat (TBS)
  • Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC)

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