OpenSecrets.org data now shows that [Rep.] Rogers has received at least $175,000 from organizations that have lobbied on the bill. That’s about 15 percent of the total $1.1 million he has reported raising this election cycle.
In an era when Republicans and Democrats can agree on almost nothing, one issue in the last three months has been providing common ground: rewriting the rules of the Internet. Privacy and free speech advocates have unleashed a groundswell of outrage as they’ve rushed to rally the public against the measures. But corporate backers of the proposals have fought back hard.
According to an OpenSecrets.org analysis of the most recent lobbying disclosure information, five of the top ten bills that have been lobbied the most intensely so far this year are Internet-related, and most have bipartisan and industry backing. Major cash is being laid out to push their passage.
The most recent bill to stir things up is the Cyber Intelligence and Sharing Protection Act (CISPA), which would allow private companies to share far more data on users with the federal government in what backers say is an effort to improve cybersecurity. Opponents claim it would severely undermine the privacy rights of many Americans. The bill was passed by the House last night and now faces a tougher battle in the Senate (and the threat of a veto by President Obama).A list of companies and organizations that have sent letters of support for the bill to the House Intelligence Committee, where the legislation was created, meshes closely with the list of top lobbying groups so far this year — not to mention groups that lobbied on SOPA and PIPA.
For example, AT&T, which sent this letter, spent more money lobbying in the first three months of 2012 than any other single corporation ($7 million, second only to the mega-trade organization Chamber of Commerce, which also lobbied on CISPA though to a lesser extent). The telephone utilities industry as a whole, which includes AT&T and Verizon (which sent this letter) spent $15.3 million in the first quarter of this year, increasing its lobbying expenditures by 35 percent over the previous three months. The total laid out for lobbying by the computer/Internet industry, which includes some of the biggest backers of CISPA, SOPA and PIPA, fell 6 percent in the first quarter — but at $32.1 million, the industry was still the sixth-largest spender on lobbying among all industries so far in 2012.
It’s hard to assess how much each of these companies spent lobbying Congress specifically on CISPA — or other hot-button Internet bills — because many of these companies have a variety of issues they’re pursuing on Capitol Hill, but are required to report just one dollar amount covering everything. AT&T, for instance, spent its $7 million talking to lawmakers about 121 separate pieces of legislation.
But it’s clear that the lobbying firepower on the other side of the issue is a fraction of what supporters have. One of the most vocal opponents of CISPA is the American Civil Liberties Union – which has spent $507,000 lobbying so far this year, a 28 percent increase from the last three months of 2011. But the group used that money to lobby on 109 different bills, almost as many as AT&T. Another group that has taken a prominent stand against CISPA is the American Library Association, which has spent $54,000 so far this year, spread over 56 different pieces of legislation.
Another indication of the collective influence of backers of CISPA is the amount of money individuals or PACs affiliated with the organizations have given to key lawmakers on the issue. Last week we reported that the bill’s original sponsor, Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), had received $104,000 from groups that lobbied on the bill. With new campaign finance reports filed since that story, OpenSecrets.org data now shows that Rogers has received at least $175,000 from organizations that have lobbied on the bill. That’s about 15 percent of the total $1.1 million he has reported raising this election cycle. The top two groups: defense contractor SAIC (whose PAC has given Rogers $20,000 this election cycle) and Koch Industries (whose PAC has given Rogers over $14,500.)
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