The Best Senator Money Can Buy

The mainstream media is finally picking up on the real story behind Senator Jay Rockefeller’s (D-WV) push for immunity for the big telecom companies for cooperating with the Bush administration in illegally surveilling the communications of U.S. citizens: the huge spike in telco contributions to Rockefeller in 2007, particularly from AT&T and Verizon executives. According to today’s Washington Post, AT&T and Verizon have given $47,350 in 2007, up from $5,000 in 2006 and $7,000 in 2005.

AT&T attributes the increase to Rockefeller being a senior Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee up for reelection in 2008. However, the contributions from all other major telecoms companies belie this excuse: $4,000 in 2005, $4,900 in 2006, and $5,250 in 2007. The rest of the telecoms industry raised their contributions to Rockefeller by 7.14% in 2007; AT&T and Verizon increased their contributions by 847%.

I’d say the difference has more to do with Rockefeller chairing the Senate Intelligence Committee and shepherding legislation which would free AT&T and Verizon from roughly 40 pending lawsuits which charge the telcos with violating the privacy rights of U.S. citizens by cooperating with the Bush administration’s warrantless surveillance programme.

The story of the AT&T and Verizon contributions was broken by Ryan Singel on Wired’s Threat Level blog.

This is one more example of why progressives need to treat the Democratic Congress with the same skeptical eye that they did the Republicans. Rockefeller has sold out to the telcos and progressives should respond by refusing to support his reelection. It’s better to see real enemies in office than false friends who can be bought to betray you; it would be even better to see real progressives in primary challenges to Democrats who are bought by corporate interests.


  1. It seems odd that a Rockefeller, of all (rich) people, would sell out the Constitution for a measly $50k. He probably has that much in the coin jar on his dresser.

    However, I have no better explanation for his shameful conduct. This is disgraceful behavior, and he should be shunned.

  2. Jay Rockefeller tried to defuse a great deal of oposition to him as a rich outsider early on in West Virginia politics by pledging not to use his personal fortune to bankroll his campaigns. To his credit, he has kept that pledge, but it also makes him just as much — if not more — a money-grubbing DC politician who is constantly on the look for corporate opportunities.

  3. In my own tribulations fighting the state utilities on power-lines, I’ve been struck by how cheap political favor is. Sums of $25-50K for a million or billion dollar issue. Separately, I’ve come to understand that buying a state senator is one of the best invesments a small company can make.

    This could all be true on it’s face. But I can’t help wondering if the public amounts are just the visible top of the iceberg.

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