I’m still trying to get my blood pressure under control over last week’s House FISA vote that gives telecom companies immunity for illegal acts. The focus of my anger is not on Republicans. Republicans have shown themselves reliable enemies of civil liberties and everyone expects them to protect the fat cats. Their votes were asured. What sends me round the bend here are the members of the Democratic Party who caved on this issue. The measure is yet to be voted on in the Senate, but Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama has said he will vote for it. The entire FISA act is not needed for security. The tools already exist. The law passed by the House is bad in its entirety, not just on the immunity issue, so Obama is completely wrong on this important matter of civil liberties. Not particularly out of character. Despite pathetic GOP talking points, Obama is nowhere near the most liberal member of the Senate (at least 8 other senators have more liberal voting records). This is just another example. But Obama aside, 94 Democratic House members switched their votes from last March. A non-partisan research group called MAPLight has shined a light on the vote switchers. MAP is an acronym for Money And Politics, and when they shone their light on the gang of 94 that’s what they saw: money and politics:
Democrats who switched from opposing to supporting legal amnesty to telecoms that aided the government’s warrantless wiretapping program received twice as much money, on average, from telcom political action groups than Democrats whose opposed the idea in March and again last Friday, according to an analysis of campaign donations by Maplight.org.
220 Democratic members of the House voted against telecom amnesty in March, when the Democrats unexpectedly rejected a Bush-backed Senate spying bill. But, 94 of those switched their vote last Friday, supporting a bill ironed out by the House leadership that expands the government’s ability to conduct blanket wiretaps inside American telecom facilities and freeing those companies from the 40 or so lawsuits pending in Federal court.
Maplight.org analyzed the contributions to both sets of the Democrats and found that those who switched their votes received, on average, 40 percent more money in campaign contributions over the last three years from Sprint, Verizon and AT&T’s political action committees. (Wired News)
If you include Republicans, the pro-immunity voters received more than twice as much in campaign contributions from telecom political action committees as the anti-immunity voters. Of course correlation doesn’t mean causation. But it’s hard to argue in this case that the companies naturally contributed to congressthings who had honest opinions that favored them, because the telecom 94 were on the other side in March.
A more reasonable interpretation is that the streetwalker 94 were bought off. Sort of like doctors pimping for Big Pharma.
Update: Democrats that behaved courageously: Mike Haubrich, in the comments, makes the excellent point that in contrast to the sell-outs (you can find their names in the MAPLlight link in the post) there were also over a hundred courageous House members who weren’t intimidated by accusations of being soft on terrorism. They stood up for the Constitution. You can find their names at his site, Tangled Up in Blue.