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.

Lessons of the Google/Moveon/Collins Dust Up: My Other Shoe Drops and It Fits Quite Nicely

For those wondering about the dust up over Google dropping Ads from Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) because she used Moveon’s trademark in her ads, I reproduce below my post on the Public Knowledge blog. I don’t usually to that kind of “repurposing” of my blog content, but this one seemed reasonably important.

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To the Democrats Who Voted for the Cornyn Amendment Condmening “Liberal Activist” Moveon and the “General Betray Us Ad”

To the Democrats who voted in favor of the Cornyn Amendment to condemn the “Liberal activist organization” Moveon for its “General Betray-Us” Advertisement.

I can only say — SHAME! Shame on you for siding with the conservative talk show bullies! Shame on you for once again perpetuating this twisted double standard in which the merchants of venom and filth scold their opponents for daring to raise their voices in protest and speak truth to power. Where were you when Max Clealand — a man who risked his life in the service of his country, losing limbs for our liberty — faced far worse “personal attacks” on his honor and bravery for daring to question the rush to War? Where was the Senate outrage then? Where were you then? You were cowering before the conservative mob, running like frightened stag before the baying talk radio hounds, while the Republicans you joined with for this shameful vote laughed at your cowardice and timidity. And now, six years later, you have proven yourselves once again to be the same timid deer, ready to run wherever you are driven when the talk radio pit bulls bare their teeth and growl.

I am tired of you. I’m tired of hearing your brave talk of “Change” and “Taking a Stand,” only to see you time and again knuckle under to the same tricks and demagoguery that held you paralyzed in the past. Your helplessness has become a joke of the late night talk shows. Your cravenness has become a byword among your opponents, who have lost whatever fear they may have felt after seeing us bring you into power after 12 long years of minority status. And your pathetic timidity has become a bitter disappointment to those of us that elected you to create change and take a stand.

I am done with you. Neither you, or The Democratic Party general reelection fund, will receive one more dime from me until a sufficient number of you are replaced with men and women willing to stand up for principle. I and the other “liberal activists” the Cornyn Amendment explicitly condemns shall seek out new candidates willing to stand up against the talk show bullies and the Conservative demagogues who seek to brow beat the opposition into silence with mock indignation, while reserving for themselves the right to spew poisonous vitriol on all who disagree. You will have no more “safe” districts or “safe” states. What use have I or other “liberal activists” — who have sought only to see an end to the tragedy that has become our failed involvement in Iraq and to protect ourselves and our fellow Americans from the rapaciousness of a new generation of corporate Robber Barons — for so-called Democrats who quail before the conservative talk show bullies and crawl to do their bidding? We will find new candidates, brave men and women willing to speak truth to power, and with the spine to carry their conviction from the campaign trail to the Capital.

It may be that you can provide some satisfactory answer to your unconscionable vote and redeem yourselves, but I sincerely doubt it. For actually crossing party lines to condemn the Moveon ad, I have nothing but contempt. It is not merely that you are utterly wrong on substance. It is not merely that this latest craven surrender to the Conservative noise machine marks you once again as unfit to lead our nation in the direction it must go. It is the sheer, utter, lemming-like suicidal imbecility with which you seem determined to leap over the proverbial cliff and throw yourselves into the sea. As a matter of pure, cold blooded political calculation, I am simply astounded at your utter disregard for those who have paid with sweat, blood and treasure to put you and the Democratic Party back in the majority. I am appalled at your inability to perceive the misgivings of your “base” that despite your brave talk you would in the end once again disappoint us by prostrating yourselves before the Conservative talk show bullies who — after two decades of unrestrained consolidation and the death of the Fairness Doctrine — dominate our public airwaves with their vitriol and drown out all voices of dissent with your craven assistance. What “vital center” do you think you win by continued reaffirmations of your political cowardice and timidity? What “centrists” do you think you inspire with consistent craven surrender to the Conservative right?

Had you resisted your craven impulse to bow to the Right, sadly grown into unthinking habit from long use, this “controversy” would have been dismissed as a mere sideshow, the vaporings of the Conservative talk show bullies and Republican demagogues, forgotten in the wake of the next OJ bulletin. But no, you have given your imprimatur to their brayings, handed them another victory to reenforce the perception of their power, and deeply offended those on whom you must rely for success. When your fundraisers call, or those from the Democratic Party call, I shall make clear to them precisely what I think of Democrats who quiver to do the bidding of the Cavutos and Limbaughs of the world instead of standing up for the principles on which they were elected.

To the Democrats who stood up to the bullies and voted against the Cornyn Resolution — especially the Democratic Candidates for President Hilary Clinton and Chris Dodd — you give me hope. In 2003, only two Democrats dared to defy the attack dogs of the right and make a stand against the pressure of the Conservative mob. Some Democrats, at least, can learn courage and can stand by their convictions. Whatever your personal feelings about the language of the advertisement (and there is certainly room for disagreement on whether it was useful, appropriate or effective), I am pleased to see that you have learned that trying to appease the talk show bullies is a losing proposition. You recognized that when push comes to shove and you must go on record and take a stand, and proved you are prepared to stand up for what you believe. You have learned to say “No, maybe I didn’t like the ad and thought it’s criticism of Patraeus over the top, but I will not endorse a double standard that lets talk show bullies call us ‘traitors’ and ‘terrorists’ and ‘cowards’ who ‘cut and run,’ but who fake outrage and demand we disassociate ourselves from ‘despicable hate speech’ when others use much milder criticisms.”

If the rest of the Democratic Party can only learn from your example, there is still hope for 2008. Like Dorothy standing up to the Great and Powerful Oz and thus revealing him to be a fraud propped up with a loud voice and special effects machine, your example in standing up to the orchestrated outrage of the Conservative echo chamber can break the power of the talk show bullies over the cowardly lions, tin men, and scarecrows that make up the rest of the party.

To the Democrats who stood silent, thinking that this placed you above the fray and sent a proper nuanced message, a warning. Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes that “there is a time to speak, and a time to stay silent.” This is not the time for silence. Senator Mitch McConnell put it quite well when he said: “Let’s take sides. General Petraeus or Which one are we going to believe? Which one are we going to condemn?” Your silence, however meant, appeases no one and calls your principles into doubt. By refusing to take a stand, you leave yourself open to the accusation that you lacked the nerve to fully commit yourselves. Yes, there are times when it is both the right thing and the brave thing to refuse to engage at all, to follow the wisdom of the old adage that if you wrestle a fool in the mud no one watching will see much difference between the two. But there are also times when one must clearly and unambiguously pick a side.

I close with Senator McConnell’s call to arms. “Let’s take sides. General Petraeus or Which one are we going to believe? Which one are we going to condemn?” Yes indeed. That is the question the American people face, and will decide upon in the election of 2008. You Senators who chose Patraeous over Moveon, who claim to hate the War but cringe when the talk show bullies bark, have shown your true character and made your choice. We, the voters who brought the Democrats to power in 2006, who have done the impossible by giving the Democrats an hitherto unimaginable lead in fundraising against their Republican opponents, will not forget when we go to make our choice in November 2008.

Stay tuned . . . .

ALERT ON Tomorrow's Mark Up of Internet Bill (COPE)

Most folks reading this will have heard about the Communications Opportunity and Enhancements Act of 2006, aka COPE. I shall blog more thoroughly on this presently. For now, I want to focus on a narrow issue that may get lost in the shuffle: the efforts of Rep. Steve Buyer (R-IN) to accomplish for his telco masters what AT&T could not accomplish in his home state — killing muni broadband.

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